It's a project decades in the making and this year it will be completed.By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The first major highway to be added to the Pittsburgh driving landscape since the Parkway North opened in 1989 is just around the curve.

Conceived in the 1980s and in the works since 1991, the Southern Beltway is just a few months from opening.

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“It starts right there at the Parkway West, at Pittsburgh International Airport, and connects to Interstate 79,” says Renee Vid Colborn, Pennsylvania Turnpike Public Information Manager-West. “So it’ll be a straight shot for people traveling to and from the airport.”

The new road cuts a path across Northern Washington County along the Allegheny County line. It passes through rolling farm fields and skirting a number of small communities.

“It will hit areas like McDonald and Cecil Township in South Fayette Township. And we’re right on the border there and at some point where Allegheny and Washington County, meet. So there’s a lot of access to different areas including Robinson Township,” Colborn said.

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Colborn says there is a lot of work to do but it’s enticingly close to being finished.

“This project is getting closer and closer to being done. In fact, the whole southern beltway is due to open to traffic in October of this year,” she said.

This will be a relief to thousands of drivers who are funneling through the bobsled run of a construction zone at the I-79 interchange.

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“There may be some restrictions at 79, but you will be able to access it. It’ll ease up a lot of the traffic on the parkway West it’ll be remarkable once people start realizing that it’s open. It’ll be great,” Colborn said.

Because it is a Pennsylvania Turnpike road there will of course be a toll for using the Southern Beltway.

“You just drive right under a gantry and you’ll be either charged through EZ Pass or a toll by plate method where they take a picture of your license plate and mail the bill to the registered owner,” she explained.

The toll amount won’t be determined until mid-summer.

The full Southern Beltway is about 19 miles of limited access highway and on the mainline turnpike that will cost a driver in a car $2.70. The three miles of the Beltway that is already open from the Airport to 22/30 cost $1.30. If that per-mile rate was extended to the entire Beltway the toll would be over $8 which is not likely.

The turnpike uses things like existing tolls on other parts of the system as well as usage and other factors to determine the toll.

Colburn says already businesses are showing interest in the corridor and the municipalities are anticipating a growth boom once the road is open.

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The next phase of the Southern Beltway from I-79 to the Mon Fayette Expressway at Finleyville Colburn says is for now on hold until the Turnpike Commission completes the Mon Fayette Expressway connection into Pittsburgh.