Phase: Construction
Location: Westmoreland County
Anticipated cost: $120.7 million

Project Schedule

Preliminary Design:
Completed
Environmental Clearance:
Completed 11/13/2019
Right-of-way Acquisition:
Complete
Final Design:
Complete
Construction:
2022-2026

Construction Updates & Traffic Restrictions

Construction at the I-70/Route 51 Interchange began in late 2022 and is expected to continue through 2026. I-70 westbound single-lane and 11-foot-wide lane width restrictions on the Matthew Smelser Memorial Bridge began on Wednesday, May 3 and will continue through the end of October, weather and operational dependent. A daytime restriction will be in place between Exit 49 (Smithton) and Exits 46B/46A (Route 51) from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Wednesday, September 6 and Thursday, September 7 depending on weather and operations. Beginning June 22, similar restrictions went into effect on the eastbound lanes.

In addition, single-lane restrictions in both directions of Route 51 between Concord Lane and Simmons Lane are continuing to occur as needed to allow crews to perform work on Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad Bridge, sanitary work, ramp work, signal work and the re-alignment of Finley Road. Additional construction activities planned for the 2023 season are detailed below.

Track construction progress with updated construction photos.

Project Overview

This project includes improvements to I-70 and Route 51. 2.1 miles of mainline I-70 will be reconstructed, from the Matthew Smelser Memorial Bridge to just west of the Route 51 interchange, to make this section of I-70 similar to other reconstructed sections of I-70 to the east and west. A Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) will be constructed to replace the current substandard cloverleaf interchange at I-70/Route 51.

One mile of Route 51 will be reconstructed and widened from south of Ridge Road to north of Concord Lane/Pfile Lane. Route 51 will also be milled and paved from Concord Lane/Pfile Lane to Harper Drive. Finley Road will be relocated behind the GetGo to form a four-way intersection at Route 981 and a left-turn lane will be added from Route 51 to Ridge Road. Planned improvements are detailed in the project overview video below.

Project Informational Resources:

Project Mapping

View project mapping to learn more details about this area.

PennDOT Contact

Name: Dominec Caruso, P.E.
Organization: PennDOT District 12
Title: Assistant Construction Engineer
Phone: 724-439-7286

Construction Contact

Name: Bryan DeAngelis
Organization: PennDOT District 12
Title: Inspector in Charge
Phone: 724-333-0793

2023 Construction Activities

Phase 1

Multiple construction activities on existing roadways will continue in 2023, with no impacts to current traffic flow through the interchange.

Route 51 over I-70

The new easternmost structure of the new bridge that will carry the southbound lanes of the DDI traffic pattern is under construction while the existing bridge remains open to traffic.

Wicks installed for embankment remediation
New Ramps

The new DDI ramps will require complex ground improvement work, and crews will place new embankments within the existing cloverleaf interchange this year. Wick drains will be installed to address expected embankment settlement under the new ramps. Near the new Route 51 bridge, column-supported embankments will also be built this season.

I-70

In preparation for the widening of I-70, the Cedar Brook Golf Course Tunnel will be extended to the north to allow for the construction of the new westbound offramp in 2024. Other offline work related to widening I-70 will include construction of various stormwater facilities.

Side Road Relocations

The relocation of Finley Road, south of the GetGo station, to create a four-way intersection with Route 51 and Route 981 is expected to be completed in 2023. Smith Road to the northwest of the interchange will also be realigned this year.

Finley Road Improvements
Finley Road Improvements
Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad Bridge
Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad Bridge

Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad Bridge Realignment

Construction of the new railroad bridge will begin in 2023, including railroad track realignment and ground improvements and permanent embankments.

Phases 1A/1B/1C

Reconstruction West of the Interchange

Full reconstruction of I-70 west of the interchange is anticipated to be completed in 2023. Reconstruction of this 1,700-foot section of I-70 will require three construction phases:

  • Phase 1A will include the construction of the new westbound shoulder and temporary widening needed to carry westbound traffic during a traffic crossover later this summer.
  • During Phase 1B, westbound traffic will be moved to the Phase 1A temporary roadway while new westbound travel lanes are built.
  • The new eastbound roadway will be built in Phase 1C during fall 2023.

Matthew Smelser Memorial Bridge Rehabilitation and Reconstruction East of the Interchange

Matthew Smelser Memorial Bridge rehabilitation will begin in 2023, including painting the existing steel superstructure, steel repairs, bridge dam replacements, deck repairs, and new parapet blisters for future fence installation. Rehabilitation work will require single-lane closures. First, the westbound lanes will be reduced to a single lane for 17 weeks beginning early May 2023. The eastbound single-lane configuration will begin at the end of June and will also remain in place for 17 weeks. 

Approximately 1,100 feet of I-70 will also be under reconstruction related to the work occurring on the Matthew Smelser Memorial Bridge rehabilitation.

Matthew Smelser Memorial Bridge

Construction Photos

Installation of caison for Digital Messaging Sign
Access stairs for rehabilitation platform at Matthew Smelser Memorial Bridge
Setting tracks for tunnel boring pit
Beginning of ramp construction