Members of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), met on Tuesday at the new Butler County Community College in Ford City to collect public input for their long-range transportation plan.
The plan they are updating, according to an SPC press release, called SmartMoves for a Changing Region, was adopted in June 2019 and included more than $35 billion in regional transportation priorities for the next 25 years.
Caitlin O’Connor, SPC media point of contact, wrote in the release that the SPC is the area’s designated metropolitan planning organization and works closely with the 10 counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania, including Armstrong County.
The agency also works closely with PennDOT on road improvement projects.
Ryan Gordon, manager, transportation program development for the SPC, presented a PowerPoint presentation about the plan during the meeting.
He said SmartMoves for a Changing Region includes a regional vision of a world-class, safe and well maintained, integrated transportation system that provides mobility for all, enables resilient communities and supports a globally competitive economy.
To achieve this vision, the long-range plan includes a list of projects currently within fiscal capacity and projects beyond the fiscal capacity, he said.
Mr. Gordon said the Regional Vision includes three major categories, including: transit projects, such as a West Busway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) extension to Pittsburgh International Airport and an East Busway extension to the east suburbs and the Mon Valley, among other projects.
The Regional Vision also includes an active transportation category, or funds for walking/biking trails and filling in gaps between trails, he said.
The active transportation category includes extending the Three Rivers Heritage Trail to Freeport; and connecting the Westmoreland Heritage Trail to the Great Allegheny Passage, the bike trail that runs through Homestead, among other projects.
The third category is roadways, that is, highway improvement projects such as the modernization of U.S. Route 30.
The Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), lasts 25 years, and is updated every four years.
When projects are moved from the LRTP to the short-term, two-year TIF (Transportation Improvement Program), it means those projects will soon be started, or are, in the case of the Margaret Road intersection, already underway.
Other Armstrong County projects moved to the 2021 or 2023 TIF list include preservation work on the Judge J. Frank Graff Bridge; rehabilitation of the 1/112th Infantry Bridge and Graff Ramp; Armstrong State Route 28 group bridge rehabilitations; and safety improvements to the Goheenville Dip.
According to Mr. Gordon’s PowerPoint presentation, Armstrong County projects in the current TIP include the Poverty Hill Bridge, work on the State Route 85-State Route 2001 intersection, U.S. Route 422 concrete preservation, Rural Valley Bridge #4, Brick Church Bridge #2, and the Pyra Road Bridge.
He said the projects will also be evaluated from an “environmental justice” perspective, which helps ensure projects do not negatively impact minority communities.
Enhanced broadband is also important and a needed improvement, Mr. Gordon said.
After the meeting, Harold Swan, a planning and programming manager for PennDOT, said improvements on State Route 28 north of Kittanning will likely include turning lanes and other work to make the road safer.
Darin Alviano of the Armstrong County Planning and Development office said the county is concerned with projects to the north, east, and in all parts of the county, not just in Kittanning.
Jeremy Dias of state Sen. Joe Pittman’s office submitted the following statement about the meeting between SPC staff members, local officials and PennDOT representatives:
“Sen. Pittman is always pleased to advocate and work to secure funding that addresses critical infrastructure needs within the 41st Senatorial district,” he wrote. “We are grateful for the partnerships that exist with PennDOT, SPC and Armstrong County and for their efforts to help advance transportation projects within the region.”
If a member of the public wasn’t able to attend the meeting, but still wants to provide their perspective on the transportation plans and issues, SPC members invited them to submit their comments before June 9.
Citizens can submit their comments either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by submitting an online form by fax at 412-391-9160; or by mailing comments to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s address at P.O. Box 101429, Pittsburgh, PA, 15237.
An SPC spokeswoman said SPC staff people respond to every comment.
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