PennDOT working with Cranberry, Pa. Turnpike to improve Rochester Road

The next project to widen the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Butler County should help Cranberry address its most prominent traffic concern as well: Rochester Road.

Rochester Road, one of the busiest areas in the growing township, passes under the turnpike on a narrow, two-lane stretch between Norman Drive and Haine School Road. The turnpike commission recently authorized hiring a consultant to design expansion of the toll road in that area, and that project includes a feasibility study of how Rochester Road can be widened to five lanes of traffic plus bike and pedestrian facilities.

“That’s been part of our long-range plan for many years,” said Dan Santoro, Cranberry’s municipal manager. “It’s the next-highest priority on the list. It’s all coming together.”

This project will be part of a cooperative agreement among the township, the turnpike and the state Department of Transportation, which owns Rochester Road. A similar partnership during an ongoing turnpike widening project in Cranberry led to the improvements currently underway on Freedom Road, another major artery in the township.

The turnpike has a continuing program to rebuild and widen the highway from the Ohio border eastward. Planning for the next 2-mile section in Cranberry will start soon after the turnpike commission agreed earlier this month to hire consultant H.W. Lochner to design the conversion of the highway from two lanes in each direction to three.

Part of that work will include extending the length of the 28-foot, 3-inch bridge that passes over Rochester Road, said John Boyer, project manager for the turnpike. That will provide room for PennDOT to widen Rochester Road between Haine School Road and Norman Drive, a length of about ¾ of a mile.

“[The bridge] is going to have to be substantially longer,” Boyer said.

Additionally, the bridge is only 14 feet above the road, so it will have to be raised at least two feet to meet current standards.

Chad Mosco, PennDOT plans and portfolio engineer for District 10, said the turnpike project is a good opportunity to consider changes to Rochester Road.

“We figured it would be a good time to look at a study of what would be needed to expand Rochester Road,” he said. “We’ve got a good partnership with the turnpike.”

Officials said it likely will take 12 to 18 months for preliminary design of the turnpike project and 18 months to two years for the feasibility study on Rochester Road. Rochester will face some environmental challenges from nearby Brush Creek, and Mosco said it is likely PennDOT will have to acquire some property to accommodate the expansion.

Once all that is completed, then the agencies will have cost estimates and search for funds to pay for the work, which probably will be coordinated to take place at the same time. That could be five to seven years from now.

“We wish it could be sooner, but that’s probably a realistic expectation,” said Santoro. “We’re excited to get started.”

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he’s currently on strike. Email him at [email protected].