Former Pa. State Representative John Maher's Impact on the McLaughlin Run Road Roundabout
With it now being well past the one-year anniversary of the McLaughlin Run Road roundabout opening, it’s a good time to look back on the project and shine light on how former Pa. State Representative John Maher’s efforts helped push it to completion at almost no cost to the taxpayers of Upper St. Clair, along with the help of many others.
The intersection where McLaughlin Run Road, McMillan Road and Lesnett Road all meet was designated in past comprehensive plans as an area that required necessary improvements. Once it became clear that the Township wanted to improve the intersection, determining the most effective solution and financing the upgrades were the next steps.
After the Township reached out to him, Maher pitched the idea of a roundabout, and the Township conducted a study in 2017 to look at all options, eventually deciding that a roundabout was the best plan of action instead of a more expensive conventional intersection.
Maher, a former Upper St. Clair resident of 31 years and Pa. state representative for over 21 years, was vital when it came to getting the project funded. He told the Township that if it was to move forward with the roundabout, he could get the necessary funds through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to cover most of the cost, which ended up saving the taxpayers of Upper St. Clair millions of dollars. Without that funding, the Township would have had to pay for the entirety of the project itself.
In the end, he helped turn the roundabout from an important, but costly, Township paid-for project to a transformative undertaking. PennDOT ended up covering nearly the full cost of the project, which totaled $4.67 million. The Township paid for minor upgrades, such as decorative poles at the intersection and sanitary sewer upgrades through the project area.
“This wouldn’t have happened without the vision of the Township,” said Maher. “Township Manager Matt Serakowski and Assistant Township Manager Mark Mansfield deserve a ton of credit for figuring out how to fit a square peg in a round hole, while also reducing the cost of the project. This started out as a traditional intersection, which would have cost an unbelievable amount. Over time, the idea evolved into a roundabout, and once we knew it fit and could be more affordable, I needed to help get this done.”
“We got the commitment we needed from PennDOT, and PennDOT Executive Deputy Secretary Cheryl Moon made sure that was followed through on. Nothing like this gets done because of one person, it really is a team effort. Now that it’s done, it’s so clear that this was the right answer for those who live in Upper St. Clair and also for those just passing by.”
This was not the first time Maher had given a helping hand to Upper St. Clair. He had been involved in numerous projects in the Township over his career as USC’s state representative.
“Over John's career as Upper St. Clair's state representative, he assisted the community in so many ways—from supporting Regional Asset District funding for Boyce Mayview Park to transportation projects like the roundabout,” said Serakowski. “This particular project never gets off the ground without John's arduous work in Harrisburg. We applaud former State Rep. Maher and his ability to have funding identified for this necessary improvement, otherwise, the taxpayers of Upper St. Clair would have solely been responsible for financing this regional transportation improvement.”
Maher knew this project could provide a huge benefit for Township residents and anyone driving through. He also knew that it required commitment from multiple parties, including himself, PennDOT and the Township.
“This resulted in something that works really well,” said Maher. “The Township took the lead on figuring out the engineering and making the project more affordable. I was able to help secure state funding, and I made it my mission to get state support for this project so the taxpayers of Upper St. Clair wouldn’t have to shoulder the cost of the project. I couldn’t be more pleased that PennDOT kept their commitment to get the job done even after I was out of office.”
Maher, who is now a fellow at Cambridge University, is grateful that he had the opportunity to impact the community in such a direct way.
“It’s certainly very satisfying knowing I could provide a benefit to Upper St. Clair residents, who I served for many years, and especially because I was a resident myself for three decades. I would also like to mention current Pa. State Rep. Natalie Mihalek and Sen. Devlin Robinson, who are doing their best for the people of Upper St. Clair right now, just as I tried to do for many years before.”
State Rep. Mihalek and Sen. Robinson showed their appreciation for the hard work put in to complete the project.
“The previous intersection was burdensome and was a problem during rush hour traffic,” said Mihalek. “Now, with the roundabout, traffic flows better and it is clearly a safer situation. Improvements like these occur because of the dedication and professionalism of local public officials, which was certainly the case here. It was an honor to work with the Upper St. Clair commissioners and staff to get this done.”
“I am pleased to see this project come to life and I applaud the mutual effort that made this roundabout a reality,” said Robinson. “I look forward to seeing its completion benefit the community for years to come.”
On the Township side of things, former Board of Commissioners President Mark D. Christie played a large role in getting the project approved despite the uncertainty around it, while current Board of Commissioners President Daniel R. Paoly helped guide it to the finish line.
“I think this was a great example of cooperation between the state, PennDOT and the Township on a project that provides an incredible benefit for the community,” said Christie. “It has turned out extremely well and I think the citizens are very happy with the result. This is an intersection with heavy traffic, and we alleviated some major congestion that used to happen here every day. It’s a tremendous improvement, and I think everyone is thankful for the cooperation between the state, PennDOT and the Township.”
“I’d like to thank everyone who played a part in this, especially former Rep. Maher, PennDOT and Township staff,” said Paoly. “I think it’s a great asset for not only our community, but everyone who travels through the area.”
The project was also made possible thanks to the efforts of PennDOT staff—including Cheryl Moon, who is now the executive deputy secretary at PennDOT, and Jason Zang, who is District 11’s assistant district executive for construction.
Up until this year, Moon was the district executive in District 11, which is where Upper St. Clair resides.
“PennDOT would like to thank Upper St. Clair and former State Representative Maher for their partnership and support that allowed this and many other projects in the South Hills to occur over the past decade,” said Moon. “Rep. Maher was instrumental in aligning the funding for multiple roadway improvements, including the McLaughlin Run Road roundabout. Upper St. Clair presented the intersection modification and was extremely supportive in advancing the project through the difficult delivery process. We look forward to continuing great transportation partnerships with the Township and elected officials.”
“We at PennDOT, District 11, appreciate the partnerships and teamwork between Upper St. Clair, the District and the many stakeholders which contributed to the great success of the project,” said Zang. “We also appreciate the patience of the community who traveled this intersection daily through the construction phase. The District is pleased with the significantly improved safety and efficiently of the intersection as a result of this project.”
The project featured a free-flowing single-lane roundabout and included the replacement of two structures, sidewalks, ADA curb cut ramp, lighting and pavement marking installation, guide rail and drainage improvements.
According to a 2017 PennDOT study on the intersection, it found that the advantages of a roundabout included fewer conflict points, slower speeds, easier decision making, the ability to carry 30% more traffic and no delays during off-peak hours.
In general, the study found that roundabouts resulted in a 90% reduction in fatal crashes, a 75% reduction in injury crashes, a 30 to 40% reduction in pedestrian crashes and a 10% reduction in bicycle crashes.
For an idea of how long the roundabout plan was in the works, the Township did a study in 2017 after years of comprehensive planning for the intersection and recommended a roundabout to PennDOT once it was involved in the process thanks to former Rep. Maher. PennDOT then hired Larson Design Group (LDG) to do a follow-up study in 2017 to see whether a roundabout was indeed the correct way forward for the intersection, and they concluded that it was.
Preliminary engineering and design by LDG began in late 2017 and went through 2018. Final design and the bidding process occurred in 2019 and construction began in March 2020. The pandemic inevitably delayed some construction, but the road was able to remain open during most of the work and the roundabout opened to traffic in August 2022.