Every two years, the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission, the metropolitan planning organization for the area that includes Butler County, updates its Transportation Improvement Plan, which is in effect for a three-year period. While the plan for 2023-26 is still in effect, the commission is working on putting together the plan for 2025-28, which comes into effect October 2024.
The commission held a public meeting at the Middlesex Township municipal building on Wednesday evening, Dec. 6, to gather feedback from Butler County residents.
Rob Vigue, Valencia Borough Council member, attended because he wanted to know how infrastructure developments around him would affect his neck of the woods.
“All this affects us directly, because Valencia’s right at the bottom, and a lot of people use Valencia to get to (Route) 228,” Vigue said. “So we always have our concerns because these can cause problems with the roads in our area, to back up and stuff like that.”
The Transportation Improvement Plan is a short-term plan for transportation projects in 10 counties and the city of Pittsburgh. Although the commission does help to procure funding through grants, it is up to agencies such as the state Department of Transportation to make sure that the plan is actually fulfilled.
“Our role is to facilitate the process of developing the TIP,” said Ryan Gordon, transportation program development manager for the commission. “And then from that point on, we turn it over to the sponsors of those projects. Most of them are PennDOT. It could be a transit agency, or it could be a local entity.”
“We have a very good relationship,” said Chad Mosco, portfolio engineer for PennDOT. “We’re very open to each other for suggestions. Ryan’s great. He communicates to us very well.”
Many of the “big-ticket” items that are expected to appear on the draft 2025-28 TIP are “carry-over items” — projects included on the current or previous improvement plans that haven’t been finished yet. These include the Three Degree Road intersection, as well as the replacement of the Karns Crossing Bridge.
“They’re already in the pipeline,” Gordon said. “They’ve already been started, ‘cause there’s many phases, many years to do some of these bigger projects.”
Another major item, the Balls Bend Safety Improvement Project, is expected to finish in January 2025 at a cost of $29.7 million. It promises to ease congestion and improve safety along a section of Route 228 by adding new travel lanes, two “jug handles,” and a new signal.
Gordon said some “candidate projects” suggested by the public are under consideration for the plan. However, he admitted the commission isn’t likely to include many of them, due to the high number of carry-over projects from past plans.
“We may not get too far down on this list, because of the carry-over and cost increases,” Gordon said. “But we always are constantly looking at needs. We’re constantly talking about projects. You never know when we’re going to free up some money and we can get one of these in there.”
During the meeting, Gordon touted the commission’s progress toward achieving its goals on the “Gateway 228” improvement plan, a series of improvement projects along Route 228 in the District 10 area. Out of the 11 projects listed, six have been finished, four are currently under construction, and one is in the engineering phase.
“Other counties would just be jealous of this, because this is a lot of investment in a corridor,” Gordon said. “We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars here in this corridor.”
The 2025-28 TIP is scheduled to enter its formal 30-day comment period in May, before the commission adopts it the following month.
View the full article at butlereagle.com.