The Pennsylvania Turnpike isn’t going to build a partial interchange for the Mon-Fayette Expressway in Dravosburg for several years, but it is moving up installation of a traffic light in the borough at the site of a crash in September that killed a Serra Catholic High School student.

The borough reached out to the turnpike for help after a series of traffic accidents at the intersection of Fifth Street and Richland Avenue. The most serious accident occurred Sept. 20, when sophomore Samantha Kalkbrenner was killed when the school van she was riding in was struck by another vehicle near that intersection.

The turnpike, which expected to install a new light there as part of the interchange it will construct at Pittsburgh-McKeesport Boulevard, announced Tuesday it hopes to have the new signal installed by May.

“In light of recent accidents, fatalities and ongoing safety issues in this area, local leadership and statewide transportation agencies came together to mobilize our joint resources to provide this community what they have requested and immediately need,” turnpike Commissioner Sean Logan said in a news release. “The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission stands ready and committed to providing the necessary design, funding and construction of this signal in a timely fashion.”

The commission said the state Department of Transportation approved the new signal Nov. 3 after completing a traffic study of the area.

The turnpike started construction earlier this year on the first section of the $1.3 billion southern leg of the toll road that will stretch from Route 51 in Jefferson Hills to Route 837 in Duquesne. The Dravosburg interchange is part of the third section of the project that is still under design.

“Due to the traffic and safety issue, we offered to pull that light forward and install it as soon as possible,” said Kelli Roberts, a spokeswoman for the turnpike. “That signal will technically be a temporary signal, but it will become permanent when we build the interchange.”

Dravosburg officials and McKeesport police, who patrol the area under contract with the borough, couldn’t be reached for comment. In a turnpike news release, state Rep. Nick Pisciottano, D-West Mifflin, praised “every level of government” for working together to get the new signal installed as soon as possible and state Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, called it a “critical step” for improving safety in the borough.

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