Work has started on $118 million project to reconstruct stretch of I-70

Kathie Warco
Observer Reporter

The work to rebuild a five-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between the East Beau Street and Eighty Four interchanges in South Strabane Township has been dubbed the “mega job” by virtue of the almost $118 million price tag as well as the scope of the project.

Lane Construction was given notice to proceed last December on the project that includes widening the highway between East Beau and the south junction with Interstate 79 to three lanes in each direction. The project is to be completed in October 2020.

“This is the biggest project ever done in District 12,” said Scott Faieta, assistant construction engineer for the district, which includes Washington, Greene, Westmoreland and Fayette counties. “It is major.

“At first, the plan was to do two different projects in that area at one time,” he added. “But since there was potential for overlap and potential issues with traffic control, it seemed to make more sense and probably a money savings to take the two sections and do it as one.”

When the work is done, I-70 will have three travel lanes in each direction between the two junctions with I-79, Faieta said. The project to widen the highway between the north junction and Beau that started in 2014 is wrapping up, several months ahead of schedule. That project also included the construction of a diverging diamond interchange at Murtland Avenue.

The stretch between the south junction and Eighty Four will remain two lanes on each side, but the shoulders will be widened from two to four feet.

Unlike when the highway was designed and built in the late 1960s, the interstate will be better able to handle the 80,000 vehicles that travel it each day.

“The design improves the durability of the highway,” Faieta said. “Instead of a nine- or 10-inch thickness of concrete, it will be 14 inches thick. Hopefully, it will last 25 years.”

Faieta said it is difficult to drive through the county, whether on the highway or local roads, without encountering a flagger at one project or another.

Drivers going through this project will not have much contact with flaggers.

“During the day, the work will be going on behind the barrier,” Faieta said. “At night, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., there may be some restrictions.”

Drivers could be slowed if there is a crash in the construction area, he added.

The only effect on local traffic will occur for a week next month when a portion of Lakeview Drive is closed so crews can install a pipe under the road. The road is slated to be closed near East Beau between July 10 and 14. A detour will be posted. Lakeview will remain open to local traffic.

Work to be done this construction season includes temporary widening of the shoulders as part of preparation for work that will be done on the westbound side of the highway next year. Drainage and median work also will be done this construction season.

Other projects are continuing on I-70 in the county, including at the Bentleyville/Ginger Hill interchanges and Monongahela/Centerville interchanges.