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The Cranberry Connector: Creating a Connection Between Interstate 79 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike
By James B. Struzzi II, Community Relations Coordinator,
PENNDOT Engineering District 10

On February 22, 2002, Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Bradley L. Mallory, along with state and local officials, broke ground to begin the $44.3 million Interstate 79 Pennsylvania Turnpike Connector Project, also known as the Cranberry Connector, in Cranberry Township, Butler County. After more than a decade in the making, the project, when completed in 2004, will provide a direct link between the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) and I-79.

"Today, we begin this $44 million investment in Western Pennsylvania that will join the seemingly natural flow of these two important roadways," Mallory said. "This is truly an historic event . . . the direct connection of a major east-west roadway with a major north-south highway here in southern Butler County."

"Today, the time has come to start making that connection."
For years, no direct connection existed between the Interstate and the Turnpike in the Western Pennsylvania region. To travel between these two important east-west/north-south highways, motorists, truck drivers, and daily commuters had to travel through Cranberry Township's heavily traveled business corridor on Routes 19 and 228.

Forcing over-the-road trucks and others vehicles into the intersection and Cranberry Township's commercial business area caused increasing levels of congestion and delays. More than 45,000 vehicles pass through the intersection of Routes 228 and 19 on an average day.

Cranberry Township has seen tremendous residential and business growth over the past several years. Recognizing the potential impact this growth would have on the region's transportation network, PENNDOT, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), and local, state, and regional officials began to conceptualize a direct connection between Interstate 79 and the Turnpike in the late 1980s.

In 1989, the design consultant for the Cranberry Connector Project, Gannett Fleming, Inc., of Pittsburgh began the preliminary design process for the Connector. Many versions of the project have since been presented and suggested over the years. Funding shortfalls delayed the project in the mid 1990s until value engineering was used in 1997 to trim $16 million off the project's overall cost. Value engineering is a process used to review a project to find areas where improvements can be made to reduce costs. Through this process, cost saving solutions included constructing additional I-79 lanes within the existing median area to minimize required right-of-way.

The project-made possible through the cooperative efforts of PENNDOT, PTC, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) and Cranberry, Pine, and Marshall Townships in Allegheny County-is one of the largest projects built to date in Engineering District 10. The prime contactor for the project is the Dick Corporation of Pittsburgh, PA.

"We are extremely pleased to be able to build this regionally significant project," said Richard H. Hogg, PENNDOT DistrictEngineer. "The residents of Cranberry Township, Butler County, and, really, all of Western Pennsylvania have waited many years for this project, and thanks to the cooperation of many State, Federal, and local agencies, the Cranberry Connector will soon become a reality."

The project includes three new bridges that will carry the Connector over the Turnpike, I-79, and Route 19. In addition, a new three-lane bridge will be constructed to carry Freeport Road over I-79. Planning and building projects like the Connector require great levels of cooperation.

"Creating successful projects of this magnitude and importance is only possible through the cooperative efforts of PENNDOT, PTC, FHWA, SPC, the Butler County Commissioners, local officials, and other State and Federal agencies," said Hogg. "This project is truly a culmination of teamwork and partnership."

The second phase of the Cranberry Connector, the I-79/Route 228 "missing ramp" project, was completed this past fall. The new ramps provide access from Route 228 to southbound I-79 and access from northbound I-79 to Route 228. Phase I, the seven-lane Route 228 bridge replacement project, was completed in 2000 along with improvements to Route 228 constructed through a partnership with Mine Safety Appliances, PENNDOT, Cranberry Township, the Woodmont Corporation and CREDCO, Inc.

For more information on the Cranberry Connector and the efforts of the PENNDOT and the PTC in Cranberry Township, Butler County, access the project's website at

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