Two Massive Transportation Projects
Stimulate Fayette County Economy

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New Connellsville Amtrak Station

The Mon-Fayette Expressway

National Road In Brownsville Set To Reopen

Amtrak In Connellsville urged to upgrade with restrooms,
baggage checks

By Jennifer Reeger
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, June 13, 2009

Step off the Amtrak train in Connellsville and the area isn't very inviting.

There's the drab glass and aluminum shelter station, a pay telephone and a sign describing Amtrak's routes. There are seats in the musty shelter, but no restrooms.

"Right now, you're let off in the middle of a train switching yard, and you can't even see downtown from there, so they're lost and there's no one or nothing there to help them," said Jim Segedy, director of community planning for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

But since Amtrak announced in April that it is updating the Connellsville station with a new $1.25 million "retro-style" brick and stone shelter, officials working on the city's revitalization efforts are hopeful that more can be done to make the area welcoming to visitors.

And they're trying to persuade Amtrak to build a station that allows for checked baggage and has restrooms -- amenities that were left out of the upgrade.

Karina Romero, a spokeswoman for Amtrak, said it will use federal stimulus funds to build the new station as well as a 550-foot platform to bring Connellsville up to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The semi-enclosed station will have heating and benches, but it will not have restrooms and will not offer checked baggage service --
something that is lacking at the current structure.

Romero said Amtrak is updating several stations and will base the amenities at each on the number of passengers utilizing the location. About 4,500 passengers used Connellsville in 2008, she said.

She said Connellsville's low passenger load does not allow for restrooms or checked baggage, which would require staffing.

"However, if we increase ridership, and we see an increase in ridership, it's always a possibility," Romero said.

Officials trying to boost tourism to Connellsville, particularly in light of the Great Allegheny Passage biking and hiking trail that runs through town, hope that they can convince Amtrak of that need.

Studio Three, a Muncie, Ind., architectural firm that had been studying Connellsville's downtown area and how to best connect it with the trail, agreed to come back and work on some ideas related to the new train station.

"It's just been shown that economic development has always centered around train stations," said J. Michael Edwards, executive director of the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority. "Being able to tie the train station to our downtown, we think, is integral to our revitalization that we have going on. We're really looking forward to seeing the suggestions the team is going to come up with."

Segedy, whose group has taken the lead on developing the design vision for Connellsville, said those suggestions will allow officials to go to Amtrak with their hopes and concerns.

"They're just doing the bare bones, what they think they need," Segedy said of Amtrak. "We're saying, 'Here is a potential to take it a step further so you can handle baggage and bicycles and things like that, because that's so critical to the access to the Great Allegheny Passage.'"

The closest stations to Connellsville with checked baggage service, which includes bicycles, are Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md., Segedy said. Allowing bicyclists to get off the train in Connellsville would make the city more of a hub for their activity.

The hope is to have public restrooms and signs that direct people to the downtown area a few blocks away as well as to the trail.

Edwards said a farmers market or artisans market that coincided with the train's arrival just after 7 a.m. each morning would be a nice way to welcome people to the city.

Passengers who were waiting for the train heading to Washington Friday morning said they would welcome a new station.

"It's kind of easy to see why they're going to upgrade it when you see this," said Rachel Haring, 19, of Jefferson in Greene County as she stood next to the shabby shelter.

"They need to put in a better station because this one, in the wintertime, is really cold," said Mary Jo Haines, 57, of Indian Head, who was dropping off neighbor Ginger Brady, 63, at the station. "But no bathrooms, too -- that's ridiculous, because there's been times we've been waiting here for hours and there's no bathroom."

"Why would you put all that time and effort into something and not put restrooms into it?" Haring added.

Segedy expects to receive preliminary designs next week for the vision of the train station area.

Those will be presented to city, redevelopment authority and trail officials to come up with a plan of action before approaching Amtrak. That plan could include offering some funds that would allow Amtrak to open a larger station.

"We'll have something tangible that we can then go to Amtrak and say, 'Are you willing to work with us on taking it to the next level?'" Segedy said. "If we have something that shows how we have met all their concerns, it's much easier to come into discussions with something like that than saying, 'We want you to do that.'"

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Amtrak will build a $1.25 million train station in Connellsville next year with funding from President Obama's economic stimulus package.

Michael Edwards, executive director of the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority, announced Thursday that Amtrak will spend $14,000 on design work.

He believes the station will be built at the site of the former train station.

Edwards told the city's redevelopment board yesterday that the portable shelter will have a retro design. It will have a 550-square-foot, 8-inch concrete platform.

Because the money to be used for the project was received through the federal stimulus package, Amtrak has 18 months to spend it.

"It should be completed in December of next year," Edwards said.

The five students from Studio Three Architecture in Muncie, Ind., who held a three-day design charrette in the city in December will return May 6. They will study the area between the train station and the downtown to determine how that area can take advantage of the development.

"Amtrak sees this station as an economic development tool," Edwards said. "We're really fortunate."

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The Mon-Fayette Expressway

The Mon/Fayette Expressway, Uniontown to Brownsville Project, will close the 17-mile gap in the Mon/Fayette system between the Brownsville to I-70 section and the Uniontown to Fairchance section, both of which are currently in operation. The completion of the Uniontown to Brownsville project in conjunction with the portion of the expressway south of the Pennsylvania border (currently being designed and constructed by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, WVDOH) will provide a continuous 57-mile stretch of highway between I-68 in West Virginia and PA Route 51 in Jefferson Borough, Allegheny County, 18 miles north of I-70 in Washington County, PA.

The purpose of the Mon/Fayette Expressway Uniontown to Brownsville Project is to provide for safer and more efficient vehicular travel by improving access, addressing future capacity requirements and drawing traffic (especially trucks) off U.S. Route 40 and onto a more modern facility. The project also is designed to support the efforts of the National Road Heritage Park, to make Route 40 less of a major transportation artery and more of a local traffic corridor and tourist destination.

Introduction

The Mon/Fayette Expressway, Uniontown to Brownsville Project is one of four Mon/Fayette Transportation Projects being undertaken by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) in southwestern Pennsylvania. The West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, (WVDOH) is designing and constructing another section of the expressway south of the Pennsylvania border. Two other sections were completed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT). The Brownsville to I-70 section has been turned over to the PTC for operation. The Fairchance to Uniontown section is currently operated by PENNDOT as a non-tolled road. When all of the Mon/Fayette Expressway projects are completed there will be over 70 miles of continuous limited access highway connecting I-68 west of Morgantown, West Virginia, to the Parkway East (I-376) at Monroeville and Pittsburgh. These Mon/Fayette Transportation Projects are in various stages of engineering design and construction as indicated on the Map Legend. All environmental studies have been completed.  The following sections describe the project design process.

Environmental Study Phase

The preliminary engineering and environmental studies for the Mon/Fayette Expressway Uniontown to Brownsville project were performed by the team of Benatec Associates/Skelly & Loy, Inc./CHRS, Inc. for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was distributed in July 2000. The Record of Decision (ROD), which documents the North Alternative as the Selected Alternative, was signed by the Federal Highway Administration in October 2000, thus authorizing the PTC to proceed with the pre-final and final design, and construction of this 17 mile section of the expressway. A presentation of Aerial Photographs of the Selected Alternative that has been advanced to Final Design and Construction may be viewed in the Aerial Photos of Selected Alternative section of this Web site.

Pre-Final Design Phase

The pre-final design phase was completed in the summer of 2003. The purpose of the pre-final design phase was to refine the Selected (North) Alternative to further minimize impacts to environmental features (farmlands, wetlands, streams, parks and recreation areas and cultural/historical resources), improve safety and operations of the expressway, to reduce construction costs, and to prepare the project for final design.

The pre-final design phase included studies for the proposed bridge carrying the expressway over the Monongahela River (An artist’s conception of the bridge may be viewed in the Rendering of the Proposed Monongahela River Bridge section of this Web site) and the preparation of a total take right-of-way plan to initiate early acquisition of properties that are clearly required in their entirety to construct the proposed expressway. The total take right-of-way plan was completed by the firm of DMJM Harris, Inc. and acquisition of these total take properties (56) has been completed.

For the pre-final design phase the project was divided into four (4) pre-final design roadway sections and one (1) pre-final design Monongahela River Bridge section. The culmination of the pre-final design phase was a series of four (4) Design Field View Meetings with PENNDOT and the FHWA, giving the PTC approval to proceed to the final design phase, initiate the preparation of the partial take right-of-way plans as the required right-of-way lines are finalized, to obtain the appropriate environmental permits, coordinate with the utility companies to determine necessary utility relocations, and to prepare the project for construction. The four (4) Design Field View Meetings for this project were held from January 2003 through August 2003 and then after these meetings the PTC was authorized to initiate the final design.

Public Meetings

Subsequent to the completion of the pre-final design and the Design Field View Meetings, Open-House Meetings for the Mon/Fayette Expressway Uniontown to Brownsville project were held on January 14, 2004 at the Menallen School and on January 15, 2004 at the Brownsville High School.

The meetings were advertised in local newspapers and open to the public. The primary purpose of the meetings was to provide information to property owners that are affected by the Uniontown to Brownsville project. Each affected property owner received an invitation and was provided the opportunity to attend either meeting.

Representatives of the PTC, their right-of-way acquisition consultants, and final design consultants were available to provide the most updated information on schedules, the effect on individual properties, the right-of-way acquisition process, and to answer questions on the expressway project.

Final Design Phase

For final design and construction, the project was divided into 11 roadway construction sections, one (1) Monongahela River Bridge construction section, a PTC maintenance facility construction section and a mainline toll facility construction section (See Detailed Overview Map [PDF: 1.69MB] for design/construction section designations).

The final design phase includes the development of final right-of-way plans for acquisition of additional total takes not included in the total take right-of-way plan and all partial takes and easements required to construct the expressway. Final design also includes the finalization of the roadway and structure construction details, obtaining the necessary environmental permits, development of utility relocation plans and the development of final construction plans and specifications for bidding of each construction section.

Due to funding limitations the project was divided into Phase 1 and Phase 2. (See Phase1 / Phase 2 Overview Map [PDF:2.4MB]) for limits of Phase 1 and Phase 2.

Phase 1 (approximately 9 miles of expressway) consists of Sections 51A2, 51B, 51C, 51D, 51E1 and 51N (PTC Mainline Toll Facility). Phase 1 includes construction of the eastern portion of the Expressway from the Brownsville Connector (Redstone Way) Interchange to the Route 51 Connector (Northgate Highway – S.R. 4039) Interchange which will provide access to Routes 40, 51 and 119 near Uniontown.

Phase 2 (approximately 8 miles of expressway) consists of Sections 51A1, 51E2, 51F, 51G, 51H, 51J and 51M (PTC Maintenance Facility). Phase 2 includes construction of the western portion of the Expressway from the Rte. 40/Toll 43 Cloverleaf Interchange in Centerville Borough, Washington County, to the Brownsville Connector/Redstone Way Interchange in Redstone Township. Phase 2 also includes completion of the Expressway/Route 119 interchange at the eastern end of the project, in Section 51A1.

The Final Design incorporated several features as modifications or improvements during the pre-final design phase. These were shown to the public at the January 2004 public meetings. These features are identified as follows:

bulletState Route 51 will be reconstructed for approximately 4,000’ from the Giant Eagle area to Northview Lane to provide turn lanes, signalized intersections at the Route 51 Connector (Northgate Highway – S.R. 4039) intersection, and the intersections with the Route 119 Ramps. A new bridge will be constructed carrying Route 51 over Route 119.
bulletThe Route 51 Connector (Northgate Highway – S.R. 4039) will be constructed to four (4) or five (5) lanes between Route 51 at Confer Drive to Route 40 at the Duck Hollow Road/Fan Hollow Road intersection. This 1-1/2 mile roadway will provide access to a new full diamond interchange with the expressway at Old Pittsburgh Road, in North Union Township.
bulletMatthew Drive (approximately 1500’) south of Rte. 40 (opposite Fan Hollow Road) will be designed by the Turnpike Commission and turned over to the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Fayette (RACF) for construction. The Commission will reimburse the RACF for the cost of construction.
bulletState Route 40 will be widened and provided with left turn lanes to Upper Middletown Road, improving access to the new Searights Interchange in Menallen Township. Upper Middletown Road will be reconstructed from Rte. 40 to Hatfield Road.
bulletThe Brownsville Connector (named Redstone Way by Redstone Twp.) will initially be constructed to three (3) lanes, and graded to provide future widening to five (5) lanes. This roadway will extend from a new at-grade intersection with Grindstone Road to existing Route 40, a distance of approximately two (2) miles.
bulletBull Run Road (SR 4003) will be kept open after construction and improved at the Bull Run Road Connector, which will tie to Telegraph Road and provide access to the Bull Run Road Interchange.
bulletOld Route 88/S.R.2089 in Centerville Boro will be reconstructed for approximately 3/4 mile, with turn lanes, to provide access to a new expressway interchange.
bulletExisting 4-lane Rte. 88 will be reconstructed northward to the Cloverleaf interchange with Rte. 40.
bulletThe Route 88 Interchange with the Expressway has been redesigned to a general diamond interchange configuration to improve safety and driveability.

The final design of Phase 1 was completed in the fall of 2005 and construction on the first Section (51C) was underway in February of 2006. The final design of Phase 2 was completed in the spring of 2008 and construction on the first section was initiated in April 2008. See the Project Status section of this website for the detailed status of each construction section including: overall contract value, per cent completion to date and roadway openings.

 

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National Road in Brownsville set to reopen at 5 p.m. today
By Christing Haines, Herald-Standard
07/3/2009
Updated 07/24/09 12:06:06 AM EDT
 

REDSTONE TWP. - The reopening of National Road in Redstone Township this afternoon at 5 p.m. ends more than a year of detouring for motorists and the return of a direct route to businesses on the road.
 
National Road, previously Route 40, has been closed from a point just east of the Brownsville Drive-In to a point just west of the eastern edge of Redstone Way since June 2008. The closure was needed to allow crews construction the Mon/Fayette Expressway to put in a bridge to carry National Road over the new expressway.

Tom Clark, who owns the drive-in, a RadioShack and a diner just west of the new bridge, said the drive-in and electronics store were hard hit by the road closing.

"It hurt business drastically for the drive-in and the store," Clark said.
The diner opened at the end of 2008 and still hasn't had its official grand opening, so it's hard to tell how the road closing has affected it. Clark said business has been good at the diner.

"The diner is local people," Clark said.

He anticipates an increase in business once the road opens and traffic from the east doesn't have to take an out-of-the-way detour to get to the businesses. Clark said he has held off celebrating the drive-in's 60th anniversary until the road reopened.

Don Guglielmo, one of the owners of Grindstone Foodland, said the road closure affected his business as well, but not to as great an extent.

"It cost us about five percent and it was inconvenient for a lot of customers. Hopefully, we'll get those customers back. It was very inconvenient; even some of our employees who live in Uniontown, it was three miles out of their way," DiGuglielmo said.

On the eastern side of the road closure businesses weren't affected as much, since they still had all of the through traffic from both east and west.

"You didn't have to turn around and go back from where we were," said Mike Kurcina, owner of the Electric Crayon.

Still, for people unfamiliar with the area it was a little confusing if they were coming from the west, especially the California Borough area, Kurcina said. He said he's looking forward to additional business with the reopening.

"I'm anticipating it will pick up a little bit, especially with the students coming back to the college. It will be a straight shot for them," Kurcina said.

Redstone Township Supervisor Ralph Rice said it will be good having both Redstone Way and National Road open again.

"We're hoping it divides the traffic now. Truck traffic going to Toll 43 will stay on Redstone Way and the local folks will stay on the National Road," Rice said. "It will be much easier getting to Allison this winter with the plow truck and for the school buses getting around."

Rick Adobato, the director of Fayette EMS which provides ambulance service in Redstone Township, said the service adapted while the road was closed, sending a crew from its Republic station to calls east of the road closure. Still, reopening the road will make things easier for the ambulance service.

"It makes it a little easier to get your second truck in for backup," Adobato said.

According to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, there may still be some minor daytime lane shifts on National Road while Golden Triangle Construction completes the project in that area, but the road will remain open to traffic.


 

Updated 07/24/2009 12:06:06 AM EDT

 


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