TRIP Reports: Extending the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Busway East (E/BEE): Reducing Traffic Congestion, Enhancing Economic Vitality, Improving Public Safety, and Accommodating Desirable Development in the Mon Valley in the Pittsburgh Area

TRIP Reports: Extending the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Busway East (E/BEE): Reducing Traffic Congestion, Enhancing Economic Vitality, Improving Public Safety, and Accommodating Desirable Development in the Mon Valley in the Pittsburgh Area

Executive Summary

Improving the efficiency of a region’s transportation system by expanding the capacity of highways, transit and intermodal facilities has been found to be an effective way to enhance economic development opportunities and improve quality of life.

  • This report looks at the impact of the proposed 13-mile extension of the Mon- Fayette Expressway from PA-Route 51 to I-376 in Monroeville as proposed by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
  • This report also looks at the benefit of the extension of the Martin Luther King Jr. Busway East by 2.8 miles from its current terminus in Swissvale to the extended Expressway in East Pittsburgh as a separate project.
  • The proposed busway extension would include a park-and-ride lot at the Busway’s junction with the Expressway. The proposed busway extension would be a separate project of the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT). PAT is currently undertaking a feasibility study of the busway extension.

The key findings of the report include:

The proposed extension of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and the extension of Busway East (E/BEE) will play a critical role in enhancing economic development opportunities in the Mon Valley by improving transportation access in the region.

  • The E/BEE would extend the Mon-Fayette Expressway 13 miles from PA-Route 51 to I-376 in Monroeville and extend the Martin Luther King Jr., Busway East 2.8 miles from its current terminus in Swissvale to the extended Expressway in East Pittsburgh.
  • The Expressway proposal replaces an earlier proposal that included the Expressway expansion to Monroeville and a second additional Expressway spur heading west into central Pittsburgh.
  • The Federal Highway Administration is currently conducting a re-evaluation of the new Expressway proposal.
  • The expanded portion of the Expressway would be a tolled highway, administered by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which also administers the existing portion of the Mon-Valley Expressway.
  • The estimated cost of the Expressway is approximately $1.7 billion.
  • The estimated cost of the Busway East is approximately $100 million.

The benefits of the Expressway completion include:

  • The improvement of access and mobility in the economically distressed Mon Valley area, including industrial brownfield sites in Duquesne, McKeesport and Keystone Commons in East Pittsburgh. This would result in increased economic development opportunities along the corridor.

The completion of the entire Mon Valley Expressway system from I-68 in West Virginia to I-376 in Monroeville

The benefits of the Busway East extension include:

  • The improvement of mobility between East Pittsburgh and Oakland
  • Improved transit access from the proposed Expressway project north of PA Route 51 as well as completed sections south of PA Route 51.
  • Significantly enhanced transit access for the Monroeville, East Pittsburgh and Duquesne areas and communities located along the Expressway and busway extension.
  • Some traffic congestion relief on the Parkway East.
  • Construction of the Mon-Fayette Expressway or construction of the combined Expressway and Busway (E/BEE) will significantly reduce travel time in key travel corridors in East Pittsburgh.
  • The following chart indicates one-way travel times between key destinations in East Pittsburgh using the current transportation system, estimated one-way travel times with completion of either the Expressway extension or the combined Expressway/Busway extension (E/BEE) and reductions of one-way travel times as a result of improved transportation in the region:
Travel time improvements with Mon-Fayette Expressway Extension (in minutes)
From/To Current With Extension Time Savings
Monroeville Convention Center / East Pittsburgh 20 7 13
East Pittsburgh / Duquesne 17 3 14
Duquesne / Monroeville Convention Center 30 10 20

 

Travel time improvements with E/BEE (in minutes)
From/To Current With Extension Time Savings
East Pittsburgh / Pittsburgh 30 20 10
Duquesne / Pittsburgh 30 20 10
  • The selection of travel destinations is based on access of major Mon Valley economic assets to Monroeville. The City of Duquesne is the location of City Center Industrial Park and Keystone Commons is located in East Pittsburgh. The travel distance from Duquesne to Monroeville on existing roads is nine miles; from East Pittsburgh to Monroeville is four miles; and from East Pittsburgh to Duquesne is six miles. Existing roads include multiple traffic lights and two lane roads over and around hilly terrain that can compromise travel safety, particularly in winter months.
  • Traffic congestion in the Pittsburgh urban area causes 45 million hours of delay annually — an average of 39 hours per commuter — at an annual cost of approximately $1 billion in the value of lost time and wasted fuel.

Completion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and the extension of the Busway East (E/BEE) would stimulate the development of underutilized property in the Mon Valley region and significantly improve mobility and connectivity in the Mon Valley and surrounding areas, improving access to jobs for the area’s residents.

  • The Expressway would improve access for the 1,500 current manufacturing and related firms in the Mon Valley that employ approximately 22,000 people and help to retain and grow these companies.
  • The Expressway would provide direct access to 1,000 acres of brownfield redevelopment sites including Duquesne City Center and Keystone Commons.
  • The Expressway extension would serve as the crucial eastern leg of the Southern Beltway system.
  • The Expressway would promote just-in-time production and shipping. In a survey of Mon Valley firms, 71 percent of the respondents said they would use the Expressway.
  • The Expressway would increase employment by existing firms. Twenty-five percent of Mon Valley firms surveyed said they would hire additional employees if the Expressway was completed.
  • The Expressway would improve access for intermodal commerce at facilities such as the Norfolk Southern Pitcairn Intermodal Terminal.
  • The E/BEE would promote community redevelopment in Mon Valley communities including infill development and transit-oriented development.
  • Good highway access is critical for manufacturers or companies reliant on goods distribution. Of the $1.1 trillion of goods shipped annually from and to sites in Pennsylvania, 79 percent were transported by truck and 14 percent were shipped by multiple modes, including trucks.

The completion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and the extension of the Busway East (E/BEE) would create numerous jobs during the estimated four-year construction phase as well as numerous long-term jobs created as a result of both projects.

  • Based on the most recent estimate of the employment impacts of highway and transit investment generated by the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) with the Executive Office of the President, TRIP estimates that the construction of the Expressway and Busway Extension (E/BEE) would support approximately 5,850 jobs annually in the construction and related sectors over a four-year period.
  • The following chart provides employment estimates during the four-year construction period anticipated for completing the Expressway and Busway extensions.
Annual Jobs Created
Total Construction Cost (Over 4-Year Period)
Construction of Mon-Fayette Expressway Extension $1.7 Billion 5,525
Construction of Busway East Extension $100 Million 325
Construction of E/BEE $1.8 Billion 5,850
  • Based on the Transportation Research Board’s extensive analysis of the impact of improved transportation access on employment, TRIP estimates that the completion of the E/BEE would result in the creation of approximately 20,880 long-term jobs: including 12,960 long-term jobs along the E/BEE corridor and approximately 7,920 jobs outside of the E/BEE corridor.
  • The following chart provides estimates of long-term jobs created by the completion of the E/BEE:

The need for the Mon-Fayette Expressway was born of the historic and unprecedented economic challenges encountered by the Mon River corridor.

  • Fifty years ago, the Mon Valley suffered the shutdown of the US Steel Donora Works, the first integrated steel mill in the United States to close. In the mid- 1980s, the entire corridor saw the near-collapse of basic manufacturing.
  • While there has been significant economic progress in Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania, the ramifications of the economic losses in the 1960s and 1980s still reverberate in the Mon Valley.
  • The improved access provided by the E/BEE will be crucial to the redevelopment of Mon Valley communities and will attract and promote economic development in the region.

According to a 2012 national report, “Interactions Between Transportation Capacity, Economic Systems and Land Use,” prepared by the Strategic Highway Research Program for the Transportation Research Board, improved access as a result of highway and transit capacity expansions provides numerous regional economic benefits. Those benefits include higher employment rates, higher land value, additional tax revenue, increased intensity of economic activity, increased land prices, and additional construction as a result of the intensified use.

  • The report, reviewed 100 projects, costing a minimum of $10 million, which expanded transportation capacity either to relieve congestion or enhance access.
  • The projects analyzed in the report were completed no later than 2005 and included a wide variety of urban and rural projects, including the expansion or addition of major highways, beltways, connectors, bypasses, bridges, interchanges, industrial access roads, intermodal freight terminals and intermodal passenger terminals.
Long-Term Jobs Long-Term Jobs Total Long-Term
Construction of Mon-Fayette Expressway Extension Created in Corridor 12,240 Created Outside Corridor 7,480 Jobs Created 19,720
Construction of Busway East Extension 720 440 1,160
Construction of E/BEE 12,960 7,920 20,880
  • The expanded capacity provided by the projects resulted in improved access, which resulted in reduced travel-related costs, faster and more reliable travel, greater travel speeds, improved reliability, and increased travel volume.
  • The report found that improved transportation access benefits a region by: enhancing the desirability of an area for living, working or recreating, thus increasing its land value; increasing building construction in a region due to increased desirability for homes and businesses; increasing employment as a result of increased private and commercial land use; and, increasing tax revenue as a result of increased property taxes, increased employment and increased consumption, which increases sales tax collection.
  • The report found that benefits of a transportation capacity expansion unfolded over several years and that the extent of the benefits were impacted by other factors including: the presence of complementary infrastructure such as water, sewer and telecommunications; local land use policy; the local economic and business climate; and, whether the expanded capacity was integrated with other public investment and development efforts.
  • For every $1 million spent on urban highway or intermodal expansion, the report estimated that an average of 7.2 local, long-term jobs were created at nearby locations as a result of improved access. An additional 4.4 jobs were created outside the local area, including businesses that supplied local businesses or otherwise benefited from the increased regional economic activity.
  • The report found that highway and intermodal capacity projects in urban areas created a greater number of long-term jobs than in rural areas, largely due to the more robust economic environment and greater density in urban communities.

The efficiency of a region’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the state’s economy. Businesses are increasingly reliant on an efficient and reliable transportation system to move products and services. A key component in business efficiency and success is the level and ease of access to customers, markets, materials and workers.

  • Businesses have responded to improved communications and greater competition by moving from a push-style distribution system, which relies on low-cost movement of bulk commodities and large-scale warehousing, to a pull-style distribution system, which relies on smaller, more strategic and time-sensitive movement of goods.
  • Increasingly, companies are looking at the quality of a region’s transportation system when deciding where to re-locate or expand. Regions with congested or poorly maintained roads may see businesses relocate to areas with a smoother, more efficient and more modern transportation system.
  • Highway accessibility was ranked the number two site selection factor behind only the availability of skilled labor in a 2015 survey of corporate executives by Area Development Magazine.
  • The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

 

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