KITTANNING – Armstrong County could soon be on track for a major transportation and economic boost.

For half a century the plan to expand a section of highway linking Kittanning to Interstate 80 in Jefferson County has been on hold. Now, that plan is a step closer to being realized.

The Armstrong County Commissioners have announced that through their collaboration with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), they have secured planning funds from PennDOT for a $250,000 study to identify a strategic list of short-, medium- and long-term projects for the Route 28 to I-80 corridor. On SPC’s draft Long Range Transportation Plan there is $75 million of funding dedicated to support the improvements of the corridor in Armstrong County.

All three commissioners sit on the SPC Board and are vocal about projects and needs in Armstrong County. An improved transportation corridor from Kittanning to I-80 could serve as an important economic gateway for southwestern Pennsylvania to the central part of the state and to the northeast, said Commissioners Pat Fabian, Jason Renshaw and George Skamai.

“This could be a very big deal for Armstrong County — it could really open up the market here,” Renshaw said.

Commissioners Skamai and Fabian agreed, noting the benefits an expanded transportation route could have for the region.

“Transportation opportunities go hand in hand with economic growth,” Fabian said.

Commissioner Skamai said the expansion project has been the subject of discussion for many years.

“It’s good to see it back on the table for serious discussion and to have money dedicated toward exploring options for that corridor,” Skamai said.

Route 28 currently functions as a regional transportation route from Pittsburgh through northeastern Allegheny County, southwestern Armstrong County, New Bethlehem in Clarion County and through the areas of Brookville and Brockway in Jefferson County. The original plan from the 1960s outlined a goal to develop a four-lane route along a 70-mile stretch from Aspinwall in Allegheny County to Interstate 80. However, the project was only completed as far as Kittanning. The approximate remaining 35 miles of planned four lanes were never completed.

The goal of the upcoming study, expected to begin by late summer, is to explore the feasibility of a continuous four-lane corridor and to examine corridor alternatives in order to find the best solution for completing the link between I-80 and southwestern Pennsylvania’s urban core.

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