Thursday, March 31, 2005

While We're At It, How Much For Your Wife?

Somewhere north of Pittsburgh, there is a fan just waiting to be hit by you-know-what.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has announced plans to widen the median along a stretch of I-76 in the North Hills. The plans involve purchasing property from dozens of property owners whose real estate lies along the path of expansion.

"The turnpike in this area is two lanes each direction, and that is not going to change," said Commission spokesman Joe Agnello. "However, we are going to be widening the median from 10 feet to 50 feet. When this job is done, the lanes of the turnpike are going to be a lot farther apart than they are now."
Usually, expansion of existing highways means adding a third lane in both directions. There is a bit more to this expansion, though, and a bit of foresight on the part of the Turnpike Commission:
Other turnpike improvements include straightening two sharp curves and improving drainage. Widening the median allows the commission to add lanes later if traffic levels warrant an expansion, Agnello said.
Three bridges will also be replaced. Sounds good, so far. But what about those property owners who will be affected?
The commission anticipates buying land from 50 to 70 property owners in Pine, Richland and Hampton, taking three entire residences near Pearce Mill Road, in Pine, in the process, Agnello said.
"Three entire residences"??? Well, of course, you have notified everyone and gotten their approval, right?
Most property owners affected by the project have not yet been notified, Agnello said.
I hope those three lucky home owners in Pine Township have already been told. Who wants to see a news story saying that a public road is going to be expanded by purchasing privately owned real estate, and find out later that the real estate is theirs?
Residents will get their first look tonight at the six-mile project during an open house at Pine-Richland High School, where plans will reveal which properties will be taken and how traffic will be hampered.
Someone had better cover that fan in plastic. There's going to be a lot of slinging going on.

At least the commonwealth hasn't invoked "eminent domain" to seize the property from the owners -- yet. Expect a lot of folks to oppose and fight the expansion plan all the way to the bitter end.

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