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Long-term transit infrastructure plan in the works

On the road again

Road projects totaling more than $186 million in costs are planned in Butler County over the next four years.

The development is not designed to prepare for an increase in traffic the region is expecting, but to help manage the traffic that is already here.

Mark Gordon, county chief of planning and economic development, is a voting member of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, and said in a public meeting Monday, June 3, that the road projects are vital to Butler County’s growing economy.

Ongoing work expanding Route 228 and access to it, Gordon said, are particularly important for transit management, because billions of dollars worth of traffic travel the road every year.

“This is not a ‘Build it and they will come’ (situation). They are already here,” Gordon said. “This will improve the overall effectiveness of that corridor.”

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission reviewed its Butler County Transportation Improvement Program during a virtual meeting Monday. The commission is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization which serves 10 counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and the four-year improvement plan is a short-term investment plan of an overall 25-year plan for the county.

The county is two years into its 2023-2026 plan, but members of the commission are already drafting the plan that will carry on through 2028. County officials help prioritize transportation work for the commission leaders, who formulate a plan based off local feedback.

According to Domenic D’Andrea, director of transportation planning for the commission, each short-term plan takes into account information in the ongoing plan, as well as goals in the long-term plan. The 2025-2028 draft of the plan estimates more than $4 billion will be invested toward improving the region's transportation infrastructure over the next four years, D’Andrea said.

While road improvement projects are usually a priority for county officials and leaders of the commission, D’Andrea said safety improvement is consistently a top concern. Bridges have been one of the biggest targets for improvement by the commission in recent years, because 13% of bridges in Southwestern Pennsylvania are in poor condition D’Andrea said.

“The draft (Transportation Improvement Program) invests over $860 million in the region's bridge infrastructure on over 280 bridges, 140 of which are in poor condition,” D’Andrea said.

In addition to road projects, the plan includes an investment of a little more than $300 million for new clean diesel and alternative fuel small transit vehicles and buses, and more than $30 million in upgrades and construction for maintenance and administration facilities.

Voting members of the commission — five from each of the region’s 10 counties and five from the City of Pittsburgh — will vote to adopt the 2025-2028 plan on June 24. However, the commission meets regularly with county officials to make updates to the plan that take into account changing economic factors, and new transit needs.

“You are laying out projects and they have factors associated with them to look at and predict what increasing prices may or may not be,” Gordon said. “Every time you go out for bid, more often than not, the responses are a little higher today than if you would have bid it a year ago.”

During the meeting, Butler County Commissioner Leslie Osche said the commission has been proactive in responding to feedback county leaders, no matter the size of the issue.

“The efforts, the advocacy on some of these big project we have has been pretty incredible, but equally on the smaller projects and calls that we make and the responsiveness on the calls,” Osche said.

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