By: Erika Stanish
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A five-mile section of the newly-constructed Southern Beltway opened Saturday to bikers and walkers and drivers were given an idea of what to expect.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike celebrated the opening with a community day, giving bikers and pedestrians a first-hand glimpse of the construction before the roadway officially opens.
It's the first major road built in the region since the Parkway North opened in 1989.
The Southern Beltway connects I-79 in Washington County to the Pittsburgh International Airport, allowing drivers from the South Fayette exit to make a trip to the airport in about 15 minutes.
"I'm looking forward to the shortcut from the greater Canonsburg area to the airport," said Anthony Aubrey. "I do a lot … I frequently travel so it's going to be very beneficial for me."
Along the stretch on Saturday, participants were able to see one of the three toll points on the road.
Those toll points will have an open-road tolling system, charging by plate or through EZ Pass accounts.
"It's a pretty neat experience to get to come out here and see what the interstate looks like without going 70 mph and seeing all the community out here having a good time," said Ann Kline.
The operations communications officer, Renee Colburn, says it will cost EZ Pass users $1.30 and $2.60 for the charge by plate.
Colburn said the road was packed on Saturday and successful despite the weather.
"We got an unexpectedly large crowd, we weren't sure with the weather," she said. "But the weather has been holding off, we have rain here and there but the rain did not keep the crowd away."
Cyclists hit the open road on Saturday.
"Biking on fresh pavement is awesome," said Julie Miller of Washington. "Our father used to joke about riding on the parkway east before they opened it. So, we're continuing the tradition by riding on the expressway before it's open."
"It's a great opportunity to see a new piece of infrastructure in southwestern PA," said Thomas Wagner from the South Side. "I work a lot on bike and pedestrian issues and it's exciting to see a new thing opening."
Total construction of the Southern Beltway cost about $800 million.
It will be open to traffic on October 15 but the entire interchange won't be open until the spring of 2022.
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