More than a half-century in the making, the last section of the Mon-Fayette Expressway is finally on track for completion following a 47-4 vote by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

Construction could begin as early as 2020 on the 14-mile section between Jefferson Hills and Monroeville, creating a 74-mile toll highway connecting Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs with I-68 near Morgantown, W.Va.

The vote by the panel representing 10 southwest Pennsylvania comes despite concerns from several area elected leaders that the project, originally conceived in the 1960s and subsequently transferred to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, no longer fit the region’s long-term transportation needs. Design work on the remaining expressway segment, begun in 2004 and halted in 2009 due to a lack of local support and funding, resumed in 2015 under Pennsylvania’s Act 89 transportation plan. 

By narrowing the roadway’s medians and eliminating a western connection to downtown Pittsburgh, Turnpike design engineers cut the project’s original $4 billion price tag nearly in half. 

Earlier this year, the Commission delayed a vote on endorsing the proposed highway in order to reexamine potential economic impacts on the Monongahela Valley southeast of Pittsburgh, and determine whether the money could be directed to other transportation projects in the region.

Because Pennsylvania law prohibits earmarked project funds from being used elsewhere, however, the Commission decided to approve moving forward with completing the expressway.