Pennsylvania Route 576
|Pittsburgh Southern Beltway
Map of the route as it exists currently
|Maintained by PTC|
|Length:||6.5 mi (10.5 km)|
|Existed:||October 11, 2006 – present|
|West end:||I-376 in Findlay Township|
|US 30 in Findlay Township|
|US 22 in Robinson Township|
Pennsylvania Route 576 (PA 576), the Southern Beltway, is a partially completed tolled highway in the southern and western suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Upon completion it will serve as a southern beltway around the metro Pittsburgh area from the Pittsburgh International Airport to the historic Steel Valley of the Monongahela River.
The first section of the highway from Interstate 376 near Pittsburgh International Airport to U.S. Route 22 opened on October 11, 2006 at 3 p.m. Construction on a segment of the beltway that will link US 22 to I-79 near the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies is currently underway and planned for a 2019 opening, while the final segment from I-79 to PA Turnpike 43 is pending. Federal approval has been given for both segments. Although PA 576 runs north–south between I-376 and US 22, the route is signed as east–west to reflect the routing that the completed beltway will take; PA 576 will begin to have a more general east–west routing when the second leg to I-79 opens in 2019.
Like the Mon–Fayette Expressway, the Southern Beltway will have no direct connection to the Pennsylvania Turnpike's mainline despite being built and maintained by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC). (Both the tolled section of Interstate 376 and the tolled section of PA 66 as well as the Northeast Extension have direct connections to the Turnpike's mainline.) Both highways, however, will have indirect connections with the Turnpike's mainline via I-376.
PA 576 begins at an interchange with I-376 and the entrance to Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay Township, Allegheny County. From here, the route heads southwest as a four-lane freeway. The road heads through wooded areas, where it curves south and comes to an interchange with US 30. Past this interchange, PA 576 continues through more rural areas and reaches the Westport Road interchange. Following this, the freeway crosses into Robinson Township in Washington County and heads south to reach its current eastern terminus at an incomplete three-level diamond interchange with US 22. PA 576 is signed as an east-west route even though it currently runs southwest-northeast, with the eastbound direction heading southwest and the westbound direction heading northeast.
PA 576 has ramp toll plazas located at the eastbound exit and westbound entrances at exits 2, 4, and 6. All toll plazas are equipped with an electronic fare collection system (E-ZPass) and for cash customers, a dual-height, automated machine for toll collection. As of 2017, the ramp tolls cost $0.75 using cash and $0.63 using E-ZPass for passenger vehicles.
While many cities comparable to the size of Pittsburgh such as Baltimore, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Nashville have an Interstate beltway that serve both locals and long distance travelers as a way to ease traffic congestion, the Pittsburgh metropolitan area doesn't have a true beltway, with most roads either going into the city (such as I-279 and I-376) or bypass it just outside the city limits (I-79 and the mainline Pennsylvania Turnpike/I-76), with I-70 to the south and I-80 to the north being a somewhat greater distance from the city. While it could be argued that Pittsburgh does have somewhat of an existing beltway with I-79 from Cranberry Township to Washington, I-70 from Washington to New Stanton, and the Turnpike from New Stanton to Cranberry, the distance of I-70 from the city in comparison to the other two highways make it a little farther out from the typical beltway. Additionally, I-70 in between Washington and New Stanton, as well as the Turnpike, are not up to modern Interstate Highway standards. Although Pittsburgh does have the pre-Interstate Allegheny County belt system, these are mostly on surface streets and are rarely promoted by the city and Allegheny County.
The Southern Beltway, which would bring a southern road closer to the city core and serve as a partial beltway, was first conceived in the 1980s when the Mon–Fayette Expressway received new life with Act 61 legislation, which transferred control of that project from PennDOT to the PTC. Additionally, the relocation and expansion of Pittsburgh International Airport helped spur the project. Less than a year before the airport relocated to its new site, the PTC decided to move forward with the Southern Beltway project in 1991.
Ground on the first leg of the Southern Beltway, the Findlay Connector, was broken on November 12, 2003, connecting what was then PA 60 with US 22. The Findlay Connector was called as such because it served as a connector to the Weirton, West Virginia/Steubenville, Ohio area, which saw their commute time to the Airport cut by at least 15 minutes. The Findlay Connector opened on October 11, 2006. Before construction of the Findlay Connector, residents from the Weirton/Steubenville area had to travel down US 22 all the way down to PA 60 in heavily-congested Robinson Township, then take then-PA 60 North to the Airport. In 2009, PA 60 north of the interchange was rebranded as an extension of I-376. Due to funding limitations, as well as emphasis on connecting the two fragmented sections of the Mon–Fayette Expressway between Uniontown and Brownsville, the Findlay Connector would be the only section of the Southern Beltway to be built for a decade.
US 22 to I-79
On December 21, 2012, the PTC announced that sections between US 22 and I-79 will proceed, with completion projected to occur sometime in 2019. The section of the route between US 22 and I-79 will be the first part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike System to implement all-electronic tolling. On November 25, 2013, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed a transportation bill into law, known as Act 89, that will raise vehicle registration fees and uncap the oil tax cap in order to fund transportation projects in the state. Act 89 is expected to provide funding to complete the Southern Beltway all the way to the Mon–Fayette Expressway and provide a little less than half of the $2.2 billion (as of December 2013) needed to complete the Mon–Fayette Expressway. The second leg of the Southern Beltway will be the first project completed with the new funding available for both the Southern Beltway and the Mon–Fayette Expressway. On January 13, 2014, the PTC awarded two contracts for the project, with an anticipated completion date of 2019, a year ahead of the original schedule. Increased activity in the Marcellus Formation, which was just beginning when the Findlay Connector opened in 2006, helped expedite the earlier opening date for the second section of the Southern Beltway.
Construction started on February 17, 2014, with rock blasting on the unbuilt end of the US 22 interchange in order to begin building the bridge to carry the Southern Beltway over US 22, while a formal groundbreaking with Governor Corbett and other state officials occurred on May 12, 2014. Construction past the aforementioned interchange will begin in January 2017 and will eventually involve excavating underneath I-79 in order for the Southern Beltway to pass underneath that highway.
The second leg of the Southern Beltway is expected to provide a lot of economic development to rural northwestern Washington County. As part of the building of the road, Robinson Township has changed many of its zoning laws in order to provide development along the Southern Beltway corridor, including allowing hydraulic fracturing in certain zones. Additionally, it is believed that if Royal Dutch Shell goes through with plans to open a cracker plant near Monaca, Pennsylvania in neighboring Beaver County (which was confirmed on June 7, 2016), it would be a major boom for both the Southern Beltway and for any development in the immediate area.
When the Southern Beltway is completed around Pittsburgh, it will be signed as Interstate 576. I-576 was also to apply to the northeastern branch of the Mon–Fayette Expressway that will extend to Monroeville, however due to funding limitations and local opposition the Pittsburgh leg of the Mon–Fayette Expressway was canceled, likely leaving I-576's eastern terminus at its junction at the Mon–Fayette Expressway instead. Both the Southern Beltway and the Mon–Fayette Expressway are being built to Interstate standards just for such a designation, though the majority of the Mon–Fayette Expressway is signed as PA Turnpike 43, PA 43, or WV 43.
In December 2014, it was reported that the Mon–Fayette Expressway and the Southern Beltway might get additional funding through foreign investors who obtain an EB-5 visa in exchange for investing at least $500,000 for public projects. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will use EB-5 funding for the Pennsylvania Turnpike/Interstate 95 Interchange Project first before determining if it will use such funding for other projects.
The PTC was expected to make a decision on how to proceed on the Southern Beltway's final leg by mid-2015. On June 18, 2015, the PTC announced that the final leg of the Southern Beltway would be restarted and return to the design phase, though no timetable for its construction has been established.
Due to ongoing financial issues with the PTC regarding Act 44, the future of the Mon–Fayette Expressway and the Southern Beltway was in doubt due to the PTC wanting to focus its capital expenses on its ongoing project of widening the mainline Pennsylvania Turnpike to six lanes except at its tunnels. On November 16, 2016, the PTC announced that they wouldn't suspend any capital projects for the time being, but did place the Mon–Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects on a list to be suspended if “future financial or economic conditions dictate a construction spending reduction”. The Mon–Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects made the list despite the fact that the two projects are funded independently of toll revenue. The announcement isn't expected to affect the 2nd leg of the Southern Beltway.
Currently, four exits are open along PA 576.
|Allegheny||Findlay Township||0.0||0.0||1A-B||I-376 – Beaver, Pittsburgh, Airport||Western terminus of highway. Direct entrance into Pittsburgh International Airport|
|0.4||0.64||2||US 30 – Clinton, Imperial||Toll plaza for motorists entering westbound and exiting eastbound.|
|2.7||4.3||4||Westport Road||Toll plaza for motorists entering westbound and exiting eastbound, formerly Santiago-Bavington.|
|Washington||Robinson Township||4.2||6.8||6||US 22 – Pittsburgh, Weirton||Toll plaza for motorists entering westbound and exiting eastbound; temporary eastern terminus of highway until 2019.|
|–||Beech Hollow Road|
|–||PA 980||Access to McDonald and Pennsylvania Route 980.|
|Allegheny||South Fayette Township||–||PA 50|
|Washington||Cecil Township||–||I-79||Interchange will also include local access to Morganza Road.|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
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- "Construction to begin in January on next phase of Southern Beltway". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 23, 2016.
- "Robinson Township holds public hearing on proposed zoning ordinance and map". Washington Observer-Reporter. June 2, 2014.
- Shell confirms it will build cracker plant in Potter Twp. The Beaver County Times (06/07/2016)
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- Pennsylvania Turnpike Southern Beltway extension gets funding Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (July 28, 2014)
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- "Toll/Mileage Calculator". Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Retrieved January 11, 2008.
- U.S. Route 22 to I-79 - Project Map Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
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