The long wait to break ground for the construction of the Mon-Fayette Expressway isn’t lost on state Sen. Jim Brewster.

At Monday’s ceremony in Jefferson Hills, Brewster, D-McKeesport, remembered lobbying for the highway during his first term on McKeesport council in 1990 and had sign-in sheets from public meetings about the project in 2006. Some of the names included officials such as former McKeesport Mayor Lou Washowich, now deceased.

In reality, state and local officials have been talking about and planning for the highway since the late 1960s to improve access to the Monongahela Valley, which once had been the king of the area’s steel production.

“It has been a long time,” Brewster said in an interview before the ceremony. “Nothing has changed in terms of the need. This highway is going to help everything.”

Although work actually began in March, officials held the official ceremony along Route 51, across the road from the initial construction site. The first 3.1-mile section from Route 51 in Jefferson Hills to Coal Valley Road in West Mifflin will cost $214 million.

Officials toss ceremonial shovels of dirt to mark the start of construction of the next leg of the Mon-Fayette Expressway on May 22, 2023. From left are Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO Mark Compton; state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills; PennDOT Secretary and turnpike board chairman Mike Carroll; Lt. Gov. Austin Davis; state Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport; and turnpike board member Sean Logan of McKeesport. (Ed Blazina/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Turnpike CEO Mark Compton also acknowledged the long delays in the project, referring to Lizzo’s song “About Damn Time.” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll, who also serves as head of the Turnpike Commission, said that the project has taken so long that there are “a lot more people looking down on us” celebrating the start of the work

Trumbull Corp. of Pittsburgh began clearing brush for construction of the first piece on the southern section of the toll road in early March.

A 1-mile stretch of Miller Road in Jefferson Hills closed permanently last month as part of the project. It will become a cul-de-sac on both ends when the project is finished.

On Monday, crews were driving piles to support the construction of a bridge pier, and the first pour of concrete for the project occurred.

Trumbull. Corp. workers use a crane drill to bore a hole for a steel beam to stabilize the ground near a pier for the Mon–Fayette Expressway on May 22, 2023. (Ed Blazina/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Overall, the turnpike expects to issue seven contracts to extend the highway to Route 837 in Duquesne at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion. The sections will open as they are completed from south to north, and the entire 8 miles of the southern section should be done by 2028.

Design for the northern section, from Duquesne to the Parkway East in Monroeville, is on hold while the agency saves money to pay for it. This highway is financed through the turnpike’s share of the Oil Franchise Tax, which had its revenue growth slowed by reduced driving during the pandemic.

After the news conference, Compton said it’s not clear when the agency will have the money to finish that last section. He said more fuel-efficient vehicles are reducing revenue coming into the construction fund, which previously received more than $150 million a year but last year only collected about $120 million.

As a result, it will take longer for the agency to build up revenue to support additional construction. Typically the agency does not borrow money to pay for that type of project.

“It’s going to get done,” he said. “The question is when.”

For those like Sam Salkosky, who became Duquesne’s city manager on Monday, the current project can’t be completed soon enough. The city is expected to come out of the state’s program for financially distressed communities within the next year.

“Since the 1980s, this area has suffered tremendous losses,” he said. “It is never too late. This is going to help business-to-business development, housing development.”

Lt.  Gov. Austin Davis, 33, grew up in McKeesport and has heard about the possibility of the highway his whole life. It is still needed, he said.

 “It has been a long road to get here. It will pay dividends.”

Trumbull Corp. workers prepare beams to be driven 30 to 32 feet underground to support a bridge pier for the Mon-Fayette Expressway on May 22, 2023. (Ed Blazina/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

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