Kathy Liebler
                        Director of Public Information

    C   O   M   M   I   S   S   I   O   N                N   E   W   S             R   E   L   E   A   S   E

       Contact: Lowman S. Henry (717) 939-9551 Ext. # 2934                      March 13, 1997


        Harrisburg -- The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is seeking $508 million in federal funding, most of it through the pending Congressional reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991, to help pay for construction of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects in southwestern Pennsylvania. Additional federal dollars are being sought for the development and installation of new Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) along the Turnpike.
        John T. Durbin, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Surface Transportation Subcommittee today to ask funding for the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects. The subcommittee is hearing requests for funding as it prepares to reauthorize ISTEA. Last month, Durbin requested $8 million from the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation for further development of the Turnpike's Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), which includes installation of Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) units along the Turnpike.
        The Turnpike's biggest request for funding is the $500 million being sought to help finance the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects. Portions of the Mon-Fayette Expressway are already under construction. When completed, the Mon-Fayette Expressway will link I-68 in West Virginia with the City of Pittsburgh via the Monongahela River Valley. The proposed Southern Beltway will begin near the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport west of Pittsburgh and loop south of the city connecting with the Mon-Fayette Expressway in Washington County.
        Turnpike planners have already received a Record of Decision (ROD) from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for two of the four component Mon-Fayette Expressway projects. Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) are currently underway for the remaining two projects and for the three component projects of the Southern Beltway.
        A total of $2.5 billion will be needed to complete all seven of the projects. The Turnpike currently has $700 million in funding identified, leaving it $1.8 billion short of the funds needed to build the highways. Durbin's request to Congress for $500 million in ISTEA funds represents 20% of the overall funding for the project. State liquid fuels tax monies and toll revenue will also be used to help finance the new roadways, although additional funding sources will still need to be identified.
        The Turnpike has already begun development and installation of various Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), including a Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) network, in the Philadelphia area. Congress appropriated $3 million in funding for fiscal 1997 to help fund a $5.3 million phase of the Turnpike's ITS program. When operational, the ITS system will also utilize variable message signs to communicate timely and accurate information on traffic and weather conditions to Turnpike travelers. The ITS system envisioned for the Pennsylvania Turnpike also provides for the development of electronic toll collection, E-Z Pass and "Smart Card" technology. Durbin asked the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation for an additional $8 million for ITS projects.
        "Together, these funding requests will enable the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to implement the projects needed to keep us competitive into the 21st Century," Durbin concluded. "They will allow us to be not only America's first superhighway, but America's safest, most reliable and most valued toll road system."


         P.O. Box 67676, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7676         Phone: (717) 939-9551         Fax: (717) 986-9649