Officials Envision Reinvigorated Allegheny County Airport

The county airport authority wants West Mifflin’s Allegheny County Airport to be a destination — but not for commuter flights.

That sums up a meeting borough officials had Monday with new authority CEO Christina Cassotis that came 24 hours before a $1.5 million federal grant was announced for taxiway rehabilitation there.

“It was a positive meeting,” borough Manager Brian Kamauf said. “We discussed the history of the airport.”

It dates back to Pittsburgh and McKeesport’s window to the world between 1931 and 1952, when commercial service moved from West Mifflin to what then was Greater Pittsburgh Airport, now Pittsburgh International.

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“Gap Bottleneck Project” Starting New Phase, With New Traffic Pattern, This Week

Work on the “Gap Bottleneck Project” is beginning to pick up, with a new traffic pattern established this week in the project area in eastern Lancaster County.

The new work is another step in the overall $9.9 million project that’s set for completion in October 2016.

For now, the new pattern is in place during overnight hours in the area of the Route 30/Route 41 project, the state Transportation Department announced.

A concrete barrier is being installed along the north side of Route 30 just east of the intersection with 41.

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PennDOT Expects $272 Million In District Road Work This Year

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will start or continue several major projects on local roads and bridges this year as it spends an estimated $272 million to give drivers a smoother, safer ride.

There will be plenty of inconvenience on the way in District 11, which includes Allegheny Beaver and Lawrence counties. PennDOT officials at a briefing this morning stressed the importance of safe driving, including adhering to work zone speed limits.

Specific announcements of road and bridge closures or restrictions will come as the events draw nearer, officials said.

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RRTA, Berks Transit Merger Complete

It is the state’s largest transit merger, and it is now official.

Lancaster County officials and Red Red Rose Transit Authority leaders took a little trip just over the Berks County line Thursday morning to meet with their Berks counterparts — and celebrate a transit consolidation nearly a year in the making.

They have established the new South Central Transit Authority to oversee both the Lancaster-area RRTA and the Berks Area Regional Transit Authority.

The RRTA name and logo on buses, as with BARTA in Berks, will not change, and the public may not notice much of a difference, transit official David Kilmer said Thursday, “We’re on a good track, and ready to move forward,” said Kilmer, who was named executive director of the new SCTA, which will oversee operations of both RRTA and BARTA.

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State’s ‘Public-Private’ Transportation Deal Will Replace 53 Bridges In Allegheny County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A team of Pennsylvania-based subcontractors has three years to replace 558 structurally deficient Pennsylvania bridges, including 53 in Allegheny County.

PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch announced Friday that Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners would lead the department’s $899 million Rapid Bridge Replacement Project.

In the “public-private partnership,” the state retains ownership of the bridges, but the team is responsible for replacing the bridges and maintaining them for 25 years. Construction must begin in summer 2015.

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Commissioners Award Second Contract In Norristown’s Lafayette Street Project

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN, PA – A little more than a year after construction crews broke ground on the first phase of the Lafayette Street extension project, the Montgomery County commissioners awarded a contract for the second phase of the project on Wednesday.

The $12.8 million dollar contract was awarded to J.D. Eckman, Inc. of Atglen, Pa. J.D. Eckman, Inc. is not the same company that worked on the first phase of the project. Construction on the second phase of the multi-million dollar project is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2015.

“It’s very typical for a transportation project of this size to be phased,” commissioners’ vice-Chairwoman Leslie Richards said. “It’s just easier. You don’t want to give the construction management of the entire project to one firm. It’s just kind of checks and balances.”

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Roadwork Planned On Routes 100, 422

Drivers relying on Route 100 or 422 to get around next week should plan some extra time for their commute.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Route 100 North will be reduced to one lane between Worthington Road and Route 113 in Uwchlan from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 13-17. The lane closure is due to road widening in the area and is part of a $17.4 million project to add a lane to the highway in each direction.

PennDOT said slowdowns will occur when traffic is restricted to one lane during construction. The contractor’s schedule is weather dependent.

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Armand Hammer Ramp Closure Starts Tomorrow

Location of Lower Pottsgrove Township in Montg...

Location of Lower Pottsgrove Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LOWER POTTSGROVE TOWNSHIP, PA — You may have toasted the unofficial end of summer Monday with a Labor Day picnic, but now its back to work and we remind you that starting tomorrow, commuting on Route 422 will be no picnic.

That’s particularly true if you’re used to using the eastbound on- and off-ramps at the Armand Hammer Boulevard interchange.

In addition to replacing the bridge over the Route 422 Schuylkill River, PennDOT contractors are also re-working this interchange into a classic four-ramp configuration.

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New Route 345 Bridges Open In Birdsboro

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BIRDSBORO, PA — Two new bridges carrying Route 345 over the Schuylkill River and the Norfolk Southern railroad are now open to traffic.

According to a press release from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s District 5, traffic was directed over the two new bridges for the first time on Thursday. There is no weight restriction on the new bridges, which daily carry 6,189 vehicles, PennDOT said.

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Armand Hammer Boulevard Bridge Over Route 422 Opens, More Work Coming

Location of Lower Pottsgrove Township in Montg...

Location of Lower Pottsgrove Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LOWER POTTSGROVE TOWNSHIP, PA— Long-suffering Route 422 drivers may take heart in knowing that one phase of the work at the Armand Hammer Boulevard interchange is completed with the opening today of the bridge over Route 422, providing improved access into the former Firestone complex.

But more work is on the way, including the closure of the on-ramps and off-ramps on the eastbound portion of the highway.

As anyone who drives the highway regularly knows, for the past 16 months, PennDOT contractors have been working to replace the Route 422 bridge over the Schuylkill River between Lower Pottsgrove and North Coventry.

At the same time, they have been working on reconfiguring the Route 422 interchange with Armand Hammer Boulevard, located on the east side of the bridge replacement project.

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Speed Limit To Rise To 70 Mph On Stretch Of I-380

English: Interstate 380 northbound at the Inte...

English: Interstate 380 northbound at the Interstate 84 split south of Scranton. Picture taken by Chris Wilson on February 18th, 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG — A stretch of Interstate 380 becomes an experiment next month when state transportation officials boost the maximum speed limit to 70 mph.

Another pilot will raise the speed limit to 70 mph on a 100-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in southcentral Pennsylvania. If all goes well, the rest of the 550-mile toll road system, including the Northeast Extension, could follow suit next spring, said Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton at a press conference on Wednesday.

On I-380, a 21-mile section selected for the pilot program will extend from the Interstate 84 junction in Lackawanna County to Exit 3 (Pocono Pines/Mount Pocono) in Monroe County.

“It’s about time,” said Elwood “Butch” Perry, a 60-year-old independent trucker who lives in Dupont. “They built the interstate system so you can run, not so you can crawl. … We live in a fast-paced society now. Everything has to be there yesterday.”

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Testimony: Luzerne County Transit Authority Employees Worked In Fear

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ROYALTON, PA — Employees at the Luzerne County Transportation Authority worked in constant fear of losing their jobs unless they fraudulently inflated ridership numbers, and the former chairman of the board knew about it years ago, according to testimony heard Monday.

Prosecutors began laying out their case against Executive Director Stanley J. Strelish, 60, and Operations Manager Robb Alan Henderson, 58, who were charged last month with conspiring to inflate senior citizen ridership numbers in the “ghost rider” scandal.

Both men, who are free on unsecured bond and remain suspended without pay, declined to comment following an all-day preliminary hearing held Monday before Magisterial District Judge David Judy. The hearing, which continues today, represents the first public testimony in the case.

Robert Turinski, former LCTA board chairman, testified that he suspected Strelish was inflating senior ridership numbers as far back as 2007.

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Thaddeus Stevens Bridge Opens To Traffic

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I was hoping the bridge would be open,” Robert Haehnle said. “I didn’t think I’d be the first car.”

But Haehnle happened to time it just right. He was the first motorist to cross the new Lititz Pike bridge — officially, the Thaddeus Stevens Bridge — when PennDOT opened it to southbound traffic about noon Wednesday.

Haehnle, a retired civil and environmental engineer who lives with his wife in Brethren Village, said he was on his way to Water Street Mission to have lunch with a man he mentors there.

He goes into Lancaster fairly regularly, so the construction has been a bother, he said. The congestion led to his being hit in a fender-bender about a month and a half ago.

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Lititz Pike Bridge Opening Next Week

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The good news:  The long-awaited new Lititz Pike bridge will open Wednesday, weather permitting.

The bad news:  The one-lane travel restrictions will simply be switched from the old bridge to the new span.

The single-lane travel will allow for the reconstruction of Lititz Pike’s intersection with Keller and Marshall avenues, project construction manager Mike Sisson said.

The new bridge is not expected to open to its full capacity until late October, after the old bridge is removed, Sisson said.

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Transportation Plan Calls For $4.7 Billion For Southwestern Pennsylvania

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A draft plan for improvements to the region’s transportation system envisions $4.7 billion in spending in the 10 counties of southwestern Pennsylvania in the next four years, a 52 percent increase from the current four-year plan.

The plan for fiscal years 2015 through 2018 signals a reversal of years of diminished spending on infrastructure and public transit, bolstered by the funding bill that the Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett enacted last fall. The draft Transportation Improvement Plan was released last week by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, a regional planning agency.

“From my perspective, we were able to add significant projects that were simply unaffordable in the last TIP update,” said Dan Cessna, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s district executive for Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties.

Among them is a $79 million rehabilitation of the Liberty Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh, which at present is weight-restricted and rated structurally deficient, meaning its components are deteriorated but not yet unsafe. Numerous smaller bridge and paving projects were added as well, he said.

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Cross-State Cost On Pennsylvania Turnpike In 2015: $46.05

Pennsylvania Turnpike Ticket from the Warrenda...

Pennsylvania Turnpike Ticket from the Warrendale (30) Toll Stop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will increase 5 percent in 2015, effective Jan. 4.

The decision by the Turnpike Commission Tuesday to hike tolls for the seventh year in a row means the cash toll to drive from the Ohio border to the New Jersey border will be $46.05 for passenger cars, up from the current $43.85


Greensburg City Council Resolves To Seek Grant Applications For Projects

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Greensburg City Council on Monday unanimously approved resolutions seeking grant applications to fund two projects.

The city will seek a Multimodal Transportation Fund grant for a proposed health care district for the Fifth and Sixth wards.

The written resolution seeks a $2 million grant application through the state Department of Community and Economic Development and PennDOT.

Consultant Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh and others put together the plan with the intent to enhance the two wards and spark development.

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LCTA Officials Placed On Leave After Charges

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two key Luzerne County Transportation Authority figures charged Wednesday in the “ghost rider” scandal have been placed on administrative leave pending an emergency board meeting next week, according to a memo leaked to the media.

Executive Director Stanley J. Strelish, 60, is facing charges including theft by deception, tampering with public records, unsworn falsification, false swearing and obstructing justice. Operations Manager Robb Alan Henderson, 58, is charged with conspiring to tamper with public records, aiding the commission of a crime and conspiring to obstruct justice.

Prosecutors say the men’s orders led drivers to count hundreds of thousands of riders who didn’t exist, resulting in millions of dollars in overfunding from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

According to a memo to the board from authority solicitor Joseph M. Blazosek, Strelish and Henderson were placed on administrative leave during a personnel committee meeting Wednesday pending board action at an emergency meeting set for 5 p.m. Tuesday. The memo does not disclose whether the leave is paid or unpaid, and Blazosek did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.

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Interstate 70 Modernization Projects To Move Highway Into 21st Century

Belle Vernon/ Speers Bridge

Belle Vernon/ Speers Bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  This road was a death-trap when I was living in the Mon Valley back in the 1970’s.  Glad it only took 40 years for PennDot to realize it!

A grassy mound in the backyard of Melvin “Bucky” Walkush’s childhood home is the only visible reminder of the popular carhop restaurant that served the best pizza he’s ever tasted.

It was the 1950s. Elvis topped the charts. Ike was in the White House. The Ford Thunderbird was one of the hottest cars around.

And the New 71 Barbeque along old state Route 71 in North Belle Vernon, owned by Walkush’s brother Joe and his wife, Adeline, was the place to stop for anyone using the highway linking Greensburg and Washington, Pa.

The restaurant is gone now, and the stretch of Route 71 that Walkush, 84, remembers was decommissioned in the 1960s to become part of Interstate 70 between New Stanton and Washington.

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Data Shows 44% Of Luzerne County Spans Are Deficient Or Obsolete

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In advance of a press conference set for this afternoon in Scranton, U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Scranton, released a county by county list of bridges deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete throughout Pennsylvania, and while Luzerne County isn’t the worst of the bunch, it’s deep in the bottom half.

The list shows Luzerne County has 441 bridges, with 121 of them structurally deficient and another 75 functionally obsolete. Combined, that means 44 percent of all bridges are sub par.

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