PITTSBURGH – West Virginians traveling to the Pittsburgh area on Interstate 79 have encountered road construction for many years. All of that construction will soon lead to a faster, more direct route to the Pittsburgh International Airport.

It’s all part of a project called the Southern Beltway which will connect I-79, in the Southpointe and Morganza Road areas to U.S. Route 22, near the airport.

The 13-mile project connects with an existing six-mile section to form PA Turnpike 576. It will be a toll road, with three toll locations, all using electronic tolling technology, according to turnpike officials. Overhead scanners and cameras will either charge drivers via the E-ZPass system or the state’s toll by plate program, officials said.

The project was broken into nine sections, with construction beginning as far back as 2014 on one section. While much of the road will be open to traffic, in the next week or two, some construction will continue into 2022, according to the PA Turnpike’s website.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is hosting a special community day event for anyone who would like to walk or bicycle on a five-mile section of the newly constructed beltway, before it opens to traffic. The event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 9 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

There are also plans to eventually connect the beltway with the Mon-Fayette Expressway in the east. That route would go from Morganza Road at I-79 to a new interchange on the expressway, south of Finleyville. The expressway, known as PA Turnpike 43, currently takes drivers, in West Virginia, from the Cheat Lake area, east of Morgantown, to Pittsburgh’s southeastern suburbs. That project is still in the design phase, is awaiting funding and has no set timetable.