The first road construction for the long-awaited next leg of the Mon-Fayette Expressway should begin in the next two months after the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission awarded a $214 million contract Tuesday to Trumbull Corp. of Pittsburgh.

Trumbull will be the general contractor for the 3.1-mile section of the toll road between Route 51 in Jefferson Hills and Coal Valley Road in West Mifflin. That’s the first piece of the southern section of the highway, which will stretch to Route 837 in Duquesne at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion.

The extension of the highway through the Monongahela Valley has been talked about since the 1960s and mandated by the Legislature since 1985, but it has run into financial delays and political opposition over the years. Although the commission has been acquiring property and relocating utilities for more than five years, this will be the first actual roadway construction for the project.

Sean Logan, former Monroeville mayor and state senator in that area, was instrumental in reviving the plans when he served as commission chairman in 2015. Now in his second stint on the commission, Logan was happy to vote for the project.

“I’m ecstatic,” he said in an interview after the vote. “This vote today was a huge momentum push. When people push in the same direction, things can get done.”

The commission will hold a public meeting in February with residents to explain the scope of work and outline how construction will proceed in Jefferson Hills, Clairton and West Mifflin. It typically takes six to eight weeks for construction to begin after a contract has been awarded.

“The public meeting is a chance for residents in the area to hear directly from the engineering team about construction details and how it may affect them,” CEO Mark Compton said in a news release. “I encourage people to attend, but if they cannot, the information will be on the website.”

This will be the first of seven contracts the agency plans to issue for construction of the southern section of the project. It will be built in sequence from the south to the north, and each section is expected to open once it is finished.

The award of the first contract did come with a word of caution. Brad Heigel, the turnpike’s chief engineer, said after the meeting that the low bid for the first section came in about 3.6% higher than turnpike’s estimated cost of $206 million.

“Since the bid was higher than the estimate, we will closely monitor costs for not only [this section] but all subsequent sections relative to the available funding, which could potentially mean a delay to the last sections of the southern section,” he said.

The southern leg had been scheduled for completion in 2028.

The turnpike is required by the state Legislature to pay for the project using funds from the state’s oil franchise tax and can only build as money is available. Design of the northern section of the highway to Monroeville has been on hold until funding is available for construction.

The project has faced decades of delays and changes, including opposition from Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy as well as hospitals and universities in Oakland that killed a proposed link along the northern side of the Monongahela River into Downtown Pittsburgh. Logan said it is still worthwhile despite the delays and changes.

“Yeah, absolutely it’s taken too long,” said Logan. “But you still have brownfields from the steel mills and you have strong neighborhoods that will benefit from this highway.

“Every day that goes by, the cost increases. That highlights the importance of us moving ahead as quickly as possible.”

Overall, the highway begins at Interstate 68 in Cheat Lake, W. Va. and extends 54 miles to Jefferson Hills. The last new section opened in 2012 in Jefferson Hills.

Correction: This story originally gave an incorrect, lower figure for the project’s estimated cost.

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at