SR 981, Section Y10 Virtual Public Meeting

Dates: December 8 - 15, 2020

Dec. 2020 Virtual Public Meeting Video

Frequently Asked Questions

The purpose of this project is to upgrade SR 981, a key north-south route within Westmoreland County, providing improved regional access. The proposed project will:

  • improve mobility on study area roadways,
  • provide consistent and reliable access and travel times for businesses and residents traveling to the study area, and
  • improve connections between established economic assets within the study area.

Project Needs include:

  • The study area experiences a high truck volume due to major employers, all located in the greater Latrobe area and the Westmoreland Airpark. The existing north-south routes (SR 981 and SR 2023) between SR 130 and the Airpark limit truck mobility due to narrow lanes, narrow shoulders, and tight turns through communities like Pleasant Unity.
  • Multiple pedestrian and bicycle trails exist and are planned throughout Westmoreland County and the area roadways do not provide any connections between these facilities or for crossings within the roadway corridor.

The 2017 feasibility study evaluated a 14-mile-long corridor. Improvements within such a long corridor can be prohibitive due to funding limitations. Smaller projects can lead to efficiencies that help better leverage limited transportation funding. For these reasons, a logical termini and independent utility evaluation was included in the 2017 study. The evaluation considered whether any separate projects existed in the 14-mile corridor that could stand alone if nothing else was improved and would meet a need. Three projects were identified:

  • Section Q20 (SR 819 to Norvelt)
  • Section V20 (Norvelt to SR 130)
  • Section Y10 (SR 130 to SR 981 near the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport via SR 2023)

Section Q20 (SR 819/SR 981 to Norvelt) will move to construction first, followed by the Section Y10 project (SR 130 to the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport). Section V20 will be the last project to move to construction. The construction order was set to ensure that contractors are not conflicting with one another at the joining ends of the projects. This approach will expedite construction by allowing parts of the corridor to be under construction concurrently but not in the same area, helping to minimize inconvenience to motorists.

There is the potential for current SR 981 traffic to divert to the proposed route (along SR 2023) in the area between the Arnold Palmer Airport and Norvelt (south of Norvelt the proposed route will still follow SR 981). SR 981 north of Norvelt carries approximately 1,900 vehicles per day (vpd) including 200 trucks. Existing SR 2023 between Norvelt and Green Street carries between 650 to 800 vpd with 60 to 70 trucks. It is anticipated that some traffic diversion from existing Route 981 to the proposed alignment along existing Route 2023 will occur. However, no increase in traffic above the normal annual growth rate is anticipated.

It should be noted that the proposed typical section will be similar to SR 981 north of Bay Hill Drive at the Westmoreland Airpark and will be more than capable of handling the anticipated traffic and truck volumes. The proposed posted speed limit will be 45 miles per hour (mph). Traffic analysis, upon which the proposed design is based, have included the anticipated traffic from a Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange at SR 981, even though there are no current plans to build this interchange and construction of the interchange is not part of this project.

The project’s purpose is to support economic growth and development at existing developable sites in the area – predominantly the Arnold Palmer Airport and Westmoreland Airpark – and to improve mobility throughout the project area for all travelers. The municipalities and public have made it clear that the proposed corridor is currently rural/agricultural, and they would like the corridor to remain in that land use category. PennDOT and their Project Team will collaborate with the county and local municipalities to ensure that the project will support the community context and growth now and for the foreseeable future.

Farmland property owners in Pennsylvania can protect their land under four different laws:

  • The Federal Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA) protects soils designated as farmland soils in the county and requires coordination with the US Department of Agricultural, Natural Resources Conservation Service. This designation only applies to federally funded projects.
  • PA Act 100 protects Productive Agricultural Land (PAL) – land that is currently farmed (does not include timberlands) - from conversion to highway use. This policy requires coordination with the Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board (ALCAB) before an acquisition of PAL. There are exemptions for bridges replaced on alignment, reconstructions, elimination of curves, and widening projects. This designation only applies to PennDOT projects.
  • The Pennsylvania Agricultural Lands Protection Policy (ALPP) protects agricultural land that has been in active production for the past three years from conversion to highway use. This policy requires coordination with the ALCAB, if ALCAB approval is not already exempt under PA Act 100. This act considers whether farmland is enrolled in a protection class (highest to lowest: farmland preservation easement, agricultural security area, preferential assessments (i.e., clean and green), and agricultural zoning (not the same as municipal zoning – agricultural zoning is a special type of zoning).
  • PA Act 43 is similar to PA Act 100 but expanded protection to all projects completed by agencies that have eminent domain powers in PA (municipalities, etc.).

In order to comply with these laws and regulations, the Project Team has interviewed property owners and farm operators in the project area to determine what parcels are farmed, how they are used, and what protections are afforded to those parcels. Coordination with the municipalities and the county has verified specific farmland protections like agricultural easements or agricultural security areas. An analysis of impacts to farmland is conducted as alignments are developed and alignments may be modified to reduce impacts to farmland. The analysis of agricultural impacts and related documentation will be submitted to both state and federal agencies for review and concurrence that the project has done everything possible to minimize impacts to farmland.

In addition, the planning work being completed for the project will help ensure that future development properly considers the current land uses and context of the area. The planning work, if implemented properly by the municipalities, will help preserve farmland in the proposed corridor.

During construction, farmers will be affected in the same way as any vehicular traffic, including the potential for delays and changing access. Access will need to be maintained at all times throughout construction.

After construction, based on farmer interviews, the wider and more consistent roadway lane widths, together with the wider shoulders, will benefit farmers. Farmers currently moving large equipment in the project corridor, whether on existing SR 981 or SR 2023, have concerns due to the narrowness of both roadways and lack of shoulders. The proposed typical section will facilitate more efficient and safer movement of farm equipment throughout the project area.

Our design will study and address drainage needs and new drainage will be installed throughout the project corridor. Stormwater controls constructed by PennDOT as part of a transportation project are intended to control runoff from the proposed roadway. The controls will ensure that runoff from the proposed roadway is the same as, or possibly less than, runoff from the existing roadway. Runoff that is causing flooding from other developments and or project area site conditions is the responsibility of the respective property owner(s).

The Conservation District will be involved in siting, design, and permitting of both stormwater and erosion and sedimentation controls implemented as part of the project. Input from the Conservation District will be sought on alignments as they are developed. The Conservation District is a member of the project’s committee of key stakeholders that has been involved in project collaboration from the start of the feasibility study.

Based on current coordination, there are no pending or planned trail developments in the project corridor. The Project Team is aware of desired trail connections that, if pursued by other entities, would cross the proposed alignments. The project will be designed with consideration, to the extent possible, of potential trail crossing locations and the proposed wide shoulders will facilitate trail connections along the proposed roadway. The Access Management Plan will note locations of potential desirable trail crossings so that these can be considered during development of the project and if and when future developments occur within the project corridor.

Based on information gathered to date, the former trolley line is not considered a historic resource eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Therefore, no mitigation is required as part of the project. However, information gathered on the trolley line by the Project Team, can be provided to the local historical societies for their use and documentation of the historical significance of the trolley line.

The Project Team includes a geotechnical consultant firm that will evaluate the potential for impacts from underground mines and subsidence. The Project Team has recorded information provided during the farmer interviews on likely locations of mining and subsidence and has noted those in the geotechnical records. Any special considerations that are required for those areas, will be developed cooperatively by the design engineers and the geotechnical engineers.

Because the 2017 feasibility study evaluated both SR 981 and SR 2023, PennDOT is evaluating what needs exist along existing SR 981. Any improvements needed along existing SR 981, between Norvelt and the airport, would be completed as a separate project.

It should be noted that the potential diversion of traffic could improve conditions on existing SR 981 due to the movement of traffic from the more circuitous, narrow and constrained existing SR 981 to the proposed roadway. Due to the constraints on existing SR 981, posed by existing development and topography, the type of improvements along that corridor are limited unless extensive impacts are realized.