Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Repurposed Mon-Fay Money Must Go to Other Turnpike Work, State Law Says

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Repurposed Mon-Fay Money Must Go to Other Turnpike Work, State Law Says

Article excerpt

Any attempt to repurpose the $2 billion set aside to build the Mon-Fayette Expressway would face a daunting hurdle because the Legislature was very specific in its earmarks.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission this week asked the Turnpike Commission whether the money earmarked for the 30-year-old project - connecting the Mon Valley to Pittsburgh - could be spent on other transportation needs in the region.

The Turnpike Commission responded by putting a halt to all engineering-design work on the 14-mile project in Allegheny County. The commission also reiterated its legislative mandate.

"This is a regional project, and the decision as to whether it is of value to the region should be made by those who live there," said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. "If the region does not want to move forward with the expressway, we will certainly respect their decision."

But if the money doesn't go to build the expressway, Mr. Compton said, the Turnpike Commission is committed to reallocating it to other projects spelled out in Act 61, the Legislature's original bill establishing the funds.

Turnpike Commission spokesman Carl DeFebo said that "under current law," if the Mon-Fayette Expressway project is discontinued, the money must go to:

* The turnpike from U.S. Route 22 to Interstate 79;

* The turnpike from I-79 to the Mon-Fayette Expressway;

* The turnpike/I-95 interchange in Bucks County;

* Or other turnpike ramps and interchanges as the commission may determine.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who is secretary-treasurer of the 10-county SPC and has reservations about the project, said he and others already have reached out to legislators.

"We have had those discussions with representatives," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "The intention, of course, is to make sure that money stays in the Mon Valley and benefits the people there. And they were receptive to it. They want to take a look at what options are available. Frankly, I'm not sure how many of them were in the Legislature back when this started in 1985. …

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