The new Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange opened Tuesday in East Whiteland, after more than a decade of planning and nearly two years of construction.
Governor Tom Corbett cut the ribbon on the new interchange, flanked by local politicians, turnpike officials and business leaders. The midday ceremony followed a reception at the new Endo Health Solutions building on Atwater Drive, next to the new interchange.
Corbett said that, though not everyone understood the importance of the new interchange when the project was first announced, the results will serve as a model for similar projects throughout the state.
"When people can view, because of this interchange, additional growth and prosperity down the road, it's a message … about how transportation can intersect with prosperity throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Corbett said.
The new interchange is the turnpike's first "all-access," all-electronic interchange. All-access, or four-way, means that it connects both directions of the turnpike, which is I-76 in Chester County, to both directions of Route 29, aka North Morehall Road. All-electronic means that toll payments will require E-ZPass transponders; cash will not be accepted.
The new interchange is designated as Interchange 320, sitting midway between the Downingtown and Valley Forge exits. According to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the 14-mile stretch between those two exits is the heaviest traveled of any four-lane section on the east-west turnpike mainline, carrying an average of 50,000 vehicles per day. The new Route 29 interchange is expected to ease congestion at those adjacent interchanges, as well as on local secondary roads.
"This project was started in 1999. It's completely toll-funded; no tax dollars were involved in the construction of this facility," acting PTC chief Craig Shuey said before the ribbon-cutting.
State Rep. Duane Milne said that the new interchange would cut 23 minutes off his commute to Harrisburg.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman said the life science industry is going through a global restructuring, and that local transportation infrastructure improvements help to support it.
Dave Holveck, outgoing CEO of Endo Health Solutions—which will soon relocate to East Whiteland from Chadds Ford—said he was ecstatic about the slip ramp opening next to his company's new world headquarters.
"It's not just about us as a company. It's the region; it's what it means to people, growth," Holveck said. "And most importantly, the life science industry that's housed here in this particular region is going to get another boost in terms of its ability to bring innovation and value not only to the region but to the population at large."
Vehicles were using the new turnpike ramps less than an hour after the ribbon had been cut.