In June 2019, the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission — the metropolitan planning organization for the area that includes Butler County — adopted a long-range transportation plan called “SmartMoves for a Changing Region.” The 25-year plan called for $35 billion in transportation and infrastructure improvements in the commission’s 10-county area.
Federal law requires planning organizations to update the plan at least every four years. As part of these efforts, the commission held a virtual meeting with residents of Butler County to gather public opinion on long-term transportation and infrastructure issues in the county.
The meeting for Butler County residents was the 10th out of 11 scheduled public meetings on the plan, with another held for the city of Pittsburgh.
The SmartMoves update is currently in the 30-day public comment period, and the commission is hoping to finalize the update by June 26.
“Public involvement is very critical and is the beginning and ending of the process to update the long range transportation plan,“ said Ryan Gordon, commission manager of Transportation Program Development.
Projects in the long-range transportation plan are divided into three stages. Stage 1 is for projects in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) which are projected for completion within the next three years. Stages 2 and 3 are for projects with much wider scope and are “much more conceptual in nature,” and are scheduled for completion between 2027 and 2050.
“We are going to have a number of TIP updates before we even get to 2035,” Gordon said. “So just keep in mind that this time frame represents numerous TIP updates and extends all the way to 2050.”
According to Gordon, many projects in the SmartMoves plan are still in Stage 2 or 3. However, some improvement projects in Butler County have moved from Stage 2 to the Stage 1. These include series of safety improvement projects along Route 228, such as the Balls Bend improvement project and the Three Degree Road intersection improvement.
Other projects currently in the Stage 1 phase include signal replacements along Route 68, as well as improvements to various small bridges in Butler County such as the Geibel Road bridge in Summit Township and Callery Bridge in Callery.
The commission is seeking additional funding for projects to improve the Karns Crossing Bridge and the Picklegate Crossing viaduct, among other bridges and roadways.
“Bridges continue to be a large percentage of the investment in the region, and Butler County is no different,” Gordon said.
After meeting with the Butler Transit Authority, the commission identified transit needs for the county which it estimates will amount to $108 million over the life of the SmartMoves plan. This includes $73.1 million in operating and maintenance costs, $32.2 million for buses and other vehicles, and $2.7 million for facilities.
Projects high on the priority list include two more park-and-ride facilities for commuter service direct to Pittsburgh — one in Evans City and one on Stevenson Road in Renfrew. Combined, these would cost $3.75 million to design and construct. $120,000 has also been budgeted for bus shelter upgrades.
The commission is still allowing the public to submit comments on the SmartMoves plan until Friday, June 9. Comments can be submitted by email at email@example.com or by fax at 412-391-9160.