Allegheny Twp. officials say climbing lane on Route 356 is much-needed
By Jodi Weigand
Motorists will not benefit from a truck climbing lane on the Route 356 hill just off the Freeport Bridge for years to come.
The project isn’t included in the final version of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s 2013-16 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), approved Monday.
The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, is the regional planning agency serving the Pittsburgh 10-county area, including Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
Development of a four-year TIP is a federal requirement. It is updated every two years and lists transportation projects that intend to use federal funds as well as regionally significant, state-funded projects. A project’s inclusion is a critical step in getting funding.
"I think it’s disappointing," said Allegheny Township Manager Gregory Primm. "It doesn’t appear as though community input seems to matter much. We thought we did everything we needed to get it on (the list)."
Allegheny Township officials submitted testimony last week calling attention to what they believe is a needed improvement to Route 356 heading toward Leechburg. They also included letters of support from state leaders and the Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth (WEDIG), of which the township is a member, along with Lower Burrell, Upper Burrell, Arnold and New Kensington.
The project would add a truck climbing lane to improve traffic flow up the steep hill from the River Forest Golf Club entrance just off the Freeport Bridge. The section has long been a headache as it narrows from two lanes to one just before the steep, lengthy hill begins.
"With heavier vehicles coming across the bridge, many people speed across the bridge to get in front of them," Primm said. "A climbing lane gives them time to get around the trucks as they are crawling up the hill."
Commission spokeswoman Shannon O’Connell said there is no money for the project.
No new projects were added to the 2013-16 TIP, she said.
"There’s so little money to go around that it’s a struggle to do everything that needs to be done," O’Connell said. "Almost everything we get goes into maintenance and preservation of what’s already there."
Nearly $400,000 was included in the 2009-12 TIP to conduct a study of building the climbing lane.
It’s unclear whether that study was ever done, according to a PennDOT District 12 spokeswoman.