CRANBERRY TWP — A road widening project with an “aggressive” timeline was rolled out to the public Thursday.
A public display of plans for the Route 228 Gateway Project was held at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center, where dozens of residents viewed the plans and discussed the project with local and state officials.
According to Jason Kratsas, director of engineering and environmental services for the township, the project aims to widen Freedom Road from Commonwealth Drive to Haine School Road. He said it picks up where a current project to replace the Freedom Road bridge over the Pennsylvania Turnpike leaves off. That project is in the initial construction phases.
Kratsas said the Gateway Project will widen Freedom Road to create a five-lane road. It will include 5-foot bike lanes and 6-foot sidewalks on each side. Kratsas and Mark Gordon, chief of economic development for Butler County, said the inclusion of those elements falls in line with what the younger generations want in their communities.
Gordon noted a walkable community is essential to many young residents.
“We're looking at all modes of transportation,” Kratsas added.
The project will cost about $10 million, and will be paid for primarily through a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant secured by the county last year.
A large portion of that money will go toward a project at Balls Bend in Middlesex Township. Gordon noted it is the only highway project to receive the BUILD grant in the state, and one of only about 90 projects nationwide to receive funds.
Gordon said the township and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission Metropolitan Planning Organization also will contribute funds.
The project is needed to address what Kratsas called “pretty intense” daily traffic on Freedom Road.
“(It is) one of the more congested corridors in the entire district,” he said.
He added that the goal is to create a “low speed, high capacity” corridor, with Gordon noting that the overall goal is to increase capacity on the entire Route 228 corridor from the Beaver County line to Route 8. Gordon added that in 2017, $28 billion in goods was transported along the corridor.
“This is not a 'build it and they will come' — they're here,” Gordon said. “Obviously, we will be able to stimulate further economic growth as a result of this. This is one of the more attractive and aggressive locations.”
Kratsas said the project will be designed with future growth in mind, with hopes of being bid by August 2020. He said construction would likely start in 2021 and would not coincide with work on the Pennsylvania Turnpike bridge. He said there could be some overlap with the MSA Thruway project on Route 228 at Interstate 79.
He pointed out that the time frame from design to bid is short, but doable due to the efforts of township and county officials.
“To say that it is super aggressive is even an understatement,” he said. “But it's exciting. As the engineer, I get to go do this because of what we've been able to pull off here (as a group). This is going to be an improvement that is going to change the complexion of Cranberry Township.”