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McKeesport officials are asking for state funding to reconstruct the heavily traveled intersection of state routes 48 and 148.
Meanwhile, the nearby neighborhood is about to have another new tenant: A new O'Reilly Auto Parts store is likely to be built at the former site of Chick's Grill.
City council in September approved a request to the Commonwealth Financing Authority's Multimodal Transportation Fund for a grant of $334,000 to improve the traffic flow and add signals to the intersection where Walnut Street meets Long Run Road.
"Anyone who travels those roads knows it's tough to get out of there," McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said. "This is a chance to redesign the entire intersection."
New signals and turning lanes also would speed the opening of a partially completed shopping center that's been under construction along the west side of Walnut Street for nearly a decade.
Traffic headed south on Route 48, toward Elizabeth Twp., must currently come to a complete stop on Long Run Road and make a left turn across Walnut Street, which does not stop. To avoid delays, some drivers headed south use Ripple Road and Center Street through White Oak and Versailles.
A traffic light at Walnut and Long Run would make that detour unnecessary.
"There are a lot of factors and intangibles coming into play here," Cherepko said. "This traffic light here would be huge, and we have a lot of people pushing for it at different levels."
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation traffic volume maps indicate that 12,000 vehicles daily use Walnut Street in Christy Park and 11,000 use Long Run Road.
The partially completed shopping center at the intersection is owned by a limited liability company connected to White Oak developer Robert Biros.
Cherepko said that if the state approves a grant to add traffic lights, turning lanes and other improvements to the intersection, Biros has agreed to provide a local match.
Biros also owns approximately 30,000 square feet of vacant land at the northeast corner of the same intersection. That land is zoned for commercial use.
(Above: This partially completed shopping center would benefit from addition of a new traffic light at the intersection of Routes 48 and 148. Tube City Almanac photo.)
In recent years, the Walnut Street corridor in Christy Park has gained a Rite Aid, a Family Dollar and an Aldi supermarket, formerly a Bottom Dollar. In addition, an Ollie's Bargain Outlet --- the first in Allegheny County --- is being constructed at the former Zayre's/Ames building next to Olympia Shopping Center.
Less than a block away, at 3711 Walnut St., the former site of Chick's Grill has been vacant since a fire swept the vacant building in April 2015. That restaurant closed in 2013. An attempt to open a strip club on the property was blocked by city council and local residents.
Allegheny County real estate records indicate the site was purchased for $350,000 on Sept. 23 by Springfield, Mo., based O'Reilly Auto Parts, which has nearly 4,700 stores in 44 states.
In August of this year, O'Reilly acquired Uniontown, Pa., based Frank's Auto Supermarket, which had an existing, older store at the Walnut Street entrance to Olympia Shopping Center. The new store would replace that location.
"We are really starting to see that area take off," Cherepko said. "If that traffic light comes in, we will see that Christy Park section go from slow motion to full speed ahead."
Administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development, the CFA Multimodal Transportation Fund provides grants ranging from $100,000 to $3 million to fund improvements to streets, airports, railroads and ports.
The deadline for projects to be funded this year has passed, but a new funding window will open in March 2017, according to the DCED website.
Originally published October 14, 2016.