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Southern Beltway, Pittsburgh's First Major Highway In Decades, Opens Friday

ROBINSON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) - The first major road built in Pittsburgh since the Parkway North in 1989 is opening Friday.

On Thursday, a ribbon cutting was held right in the middle of the Southern Beltway in Robinson Township, Washington County. Officials and lawmakers from all over the state cut the ribbon, signifying the opening of the new highway.

The 19-mile-long Southern Beltway, also known as I-576, goes from Interstate 79 at the Allegheny and Washington counties line to Pittsburgh International Airport. There are a total of nine exits. The road also links to the Findlay Connector, which opened in 2006 and is now part of the Southern Beltway.

It's expected to ease congestion on big roads like the Parkway West, I-79 and Route 50 while also giving drivers an alternative to rural roads.

The Turnpike says there will be three toll points, each charging drivers $1.30 if they have an E-ZPass and $2.60 if they don't.

"That will pay for maintenance of the roadway. We have maintenance crews on site maintaining the road 24/7," said Turnpike Commission Operations Communication Officer Renee Colborn.

As for the cost of the project, the Turnpike Commission said that's expected to be close to $900 million when it's finished.

"The funding comes from Act 89. It's oil franchise tax money so it's a different funding stream than our capital plan which is usually where toll dollars end up," said Turnpike Commission Interchange and Special Projects Manager Matt Burd.

It's a big price tag for sure, but one some lawmakers say has a lot of benefits. State Representative Jason Ortitay said he's already seeing some businesses moving in.

"We have groups like Imperial Land that are putting significant amounts of money in commercial and industrial buildings out here anywhere from $500 to $600 million," said Ortitay.

On top of that, Ortitay expects the Beltway to help with the Newbury project in South Fayette, and the old Star City property across the street.

As for Washington County, commissioners say the road will not only bring in jobs but cut down on the commute time to the airport.

"A lot of people in the area, they're buying up parcels of land as quickly as they possibly can. We are seeing industrial parks come and manufacturing facilities," said Washington County Commissioner Nick Sherman. "Really everyone in Washington County will experience a road that takes us directly to the airport corridor."

Turnpike officials say for Washington County residents, it will cut the commute time to the airport in half. Officials told KDKA's Amy Wadas the main part of the Southern Beltway will be open to drivers by 3 or 4 p.m. Friday.

Engineers say they still have a few things left to do near I-79 before the entire project is finished. They have things to do like paving, seeding and water basin work. The Turnpike Commission says the entire project will be finished by next summer.

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