PA 981
Laurel Valley Expressway

With all the talk now focusing on the Interstate 67 project in the middle of the state, Representative John Murtha has been behind a lot of projects.  He helped get funding for the widening of US 22 right here in my home county of Westmoreland.  He helped to fund the Meyersdale Bypass and was looking at other highway projects such as a PA 711 bypass of Ligonier and the one mentioned above.

The Laurel Valley Expressway was a highway that was to help the economic conditions in my hometown, Latrobe, and Derry and Blairsville.  It was to start at New Stanton at US 119 and traverse the Westmoreland County countryside all the way to Latrobe where it would turn and head to the Derry area before ending in Blairsville at US 22.

Click on map for a more detailed plan.

From the map, it looks as if initially a complete expressway from US 119 near the Sony Technology Center to Blairsville was planned.  Interchanges would have been built at the following locations:

Cycle II indicates a revised plan indicating the expressway would be built from US 119 to the intersection of US 30 and PA 981 in Lawson Heights.  Interchanges would have been built at the following locations:

Well, I thought that this project was dead, but a story in the April 14, 1999 Greensburg Tribune-Review said otherwise.  Secretary of Transportation Brad Mallory said that this is not in the immediate future, but it is still an active project.  It appears in the 2015 Long Range Transportation Plan as the plan in Cycle II.  The 12.5 mile, $125 million expressway would begin in New Stanton and end at US 30 with a $9.3 million upgrade of PA 981 to US 22.  Initially the expressway portion would be built as a two-lane highway on a four-lane right-of-way.

Now that PennDOT has released their revised 12-Year Transportation Program, the future of the Laurel Valley Expressway is in doubt.  They have decided to reevaluate the project and determine if there is money in the budget to finish construction.

After years of no discussions about the expressway, Westmoreland County economic development officials on September 25, 2012 made a pitch to construct the expressway.  "It's the county's No. 1 transportation priority.  We've got to keep pushing.  The economic benefits that project will create can't be predicted.  It will be tremendous," John Skiavo, president of the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland, told more than 400 community and business leaders at the organization's annual dinner at the Ramada Inn in Hempfield Township.  Now referred to as the Laurel Valley Connector, would cost $80 and parallel PA 981 from where it crosses under the Turnpike to US 30 at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.  Instead of a truck taking 41 minutes to make the journey, the new highway would cut that time down to 18 minutes.  Golfing legend Arnold Palmer, keynote speaker at an event honoring the airport and the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, urged the audience to support the project which would spur economic development in the area, particularly at the Westmoreland Airpark, an industrial park near the airport.  "We need to make that happen.  It will have such an effect on your business and our business," said Palmer.  Skiavo said the Turnpike Commission had not committed to the expressway, and it would be difficult with Act 44 in effect, in which they pay PennDOT $450 million yearly and has burdened the agency with debt.

PA 981
Route 30 Relocation (Cancelled)

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Page updated December 18, 2013.
Content and graphics, unless otherwise noted, copyright Jeffrey J. Kitsko. All rights reserved.
Information courtesy of the Greensburg Tribune-Review, "2015 Long Range Transportation Plan-A Region on the Move:  A Transportation Investment Strategy for Growth and Renewal in Southwestern Pennsylvania," and Dan Moraseski.