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 14, 1997


        Harrisburg -- The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's investment in the Mon- Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects in southwestern Pennsylvania topped the $127 million mark in 1996 as spending on the Mon-Fayette Expressway projects hit $116,443,837.00 and another $11,212,962.00 was invested in the Southern Beltway. Spending will take a quantum leap forward this year as the Turnpike prepares to open bids for an estimated $212 million in construction projects for the Mon-Fayette Expressway in Fayette and Washington counties.
        In 1985, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Act 61 which directed the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to study and build a number of highway projects, including the Mon-Fayette Expressway and the Southern Beltway. Through November of 1996, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has expended $116,443,837.00 on the five component projects of the Mon-Fayette Expressway. Another $15 million in contracts have already also awarded.
        The largest single expenditure, $63,369,892.00 has been spent on the I-70 to Route 51 project. An additional $34,396,550.00 has been spent on the West Virginia to Uniontown project. Included in those amounts is $13 million in rights-of-way acquisitions. An additional $800,000 in right-of-way is scheduled for approval by Turnpike Commissioners next week. The Turnpike has also awarded $15 million in additional contracts for those two projects and expects to award another $212 million in contracts this calendar year. A total of $7,186,564.00 was spent on the Route 40 to I-70 project, known as the California Bypass, which is now open to traffic.
        Turnpike planners have spent $6,220,416.00 conducting environmental impact studies on the Route 51 to Pittsburgh project and another $5,270,415.00 on studies for the Uniontown to Brownsville project. Environmental Impact Studies must be completed and submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for approval before that agency will issue a Record of Decision authorizing the Turnpike to advance the projects into the building phase. When completed, the Mon-Fayette Expressway will connect I-68 in West Virginia with I-376 in Pittsburgh.
        An additional $11,212,962.00 has been spent on planning for the proposed Southern Beltway. The Southern Beltway will extend from the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport south into Washington County and connect with the Mon-Fayette Expressway.
        Altogether, Turnpike spending on the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects totals $127,656,799.00. However, an additional $1.7 billion in funding must be identified in order for all the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects to be successfully completed.
        "Our goal over the next four years is to complete 25 miles of Mon-Fayette Expressway between West Virginia and Uniontown and between Interstate 70 and Route 51 as well as to receive approval for environmental projects, including preferred alignments for the balance of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and the entire 30-mile Southern Beltway," said Turnpike Executive Director John T. Durbin.
        Durbin added the Turnpike is more than $90 million short of the funds it needs to complete the West Virginia to Uniontown and I-70 to Route 51 projects. "We need to secure additional sources of revenue for these projects because there are major improvements which need to be made on the existing main line of the Turnpike," Durbin explained.
        The Turnpike is seeking $500 million in federal funding from Congress as part of the reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). Revenue from a potential hike in state gasoline taxes is another possible source of income to complete the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects.
        "The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is committed to moving forward on these projects as far and as fast as money will allow," Durbin concluded. "As always we will continue to do our part in improving Pennsylvania's transportation infrastructure."


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