OP-ED- Expressway Teamwork Pays off

by Senator Pat Stefano

On Monday June 26, I sat in a Harrisburg office with a collection of lawmakers in our region listening via conference call to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) as they decided the fate of a vital infrastructure project for our region.

At long last, the Mon Fayette Expressway is back on track thanks to that vote of the SPC. This has been one of the most significant issues I have worked on since coming to the Senate.

It is significant for many reasons. The biggest reason though? The Mon Fayette Expressway is working. With business parks teeming with major employers in the southern portion of the expressway we can be proud of the effect this road has already had in Fayette County. With these results in mind we can look ahead to the future with hope for more positive economic development for our county and our region as a whole.

When the SPC voted to table this project back in the spring I knew that this decision could not stand and immediately set out to understand why it was tabled. I came to find out that several leaders in Allegheny County believed this money could be used for other projects in Pittsburgh. They were buttressed by some in the Wolf Administration who circulated a document of projects that they said a simple legislative fix would enable to be funded.

Upon hearing this I began to take action. Working with my friend and colleague Jim Brewster, a Democratic Senator from McKeesport, we made very clear to the Transportation Secretary in a hearing that any effort to move this funding legislatively would be met with fierce bipartisan opposition.

We then set out to demonstrate local support. At our request, municipality after municipality passed resolutions in support of this project. That support was vital to demonstrate the breadth of support across our region and across party lines.

Finally we met with SPC commissioners from each county and enlisted the help of our colleagues to do the same. I’d like to thank in particular Senators Bartolotta and Ward who signed on to a joint letter supporting this project with Senators Brewster and Costa and over two dozen House members.  

None of this would have been possible without the partnership of the Fayette County Commissioners, and Commissioner Vicites in particular.

Together, I think this region showed what we can do when we put aside our partisan affiliation and regional borders to work together for the betterment of the entire region. It was a team effort and one that I will forever be proud of.

Years from now, when the jobs and economic development that will come from this road are realized, those who helped finish this road will be remembered as the ones who gave the Mon Valley a chance at prosperity.

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