I-79 Exit Name Change Angers Some
Cranberry residents who travel I-79 should make note of the change.
PennDOT recently renamed the Heidelberg/Kirwan Heights interchange of Interstate 79 to “Heidelberg/Collier Exit” and not everyone is happy about the change.
Kirwan Heights fire Chief Mark Lewis blasted the decision saying it could cause confusion during emergency calls near Exit 55 of I-79, while also erasing the village along Route 50 from the interstate map.
“They’re taking away the history of this community and all the small communities around this area,” said Lewis, who also lives in the Kirwan Heights neighborhood of Collier Township. “With a rivet gun, they just wiped Kirwan Heights off the map.”
PennDOT made alterations to the interstate exit signs earlier this week after Collier Township officials asked in January for the changes. Township Manager Sal Sirabella said they approached PennDOT about the change to give Collier more of a “brand identity” to passing motorists.
Sirabella said many people don’t know where Collier Township is even though it’s one of the fastest growing communities in Allegheny County.
“It’s just one of many things we’re going to be doing to develop and give Collier a little bit of an identity,” Sirabella said, pointing to the Collier Community Park at the former Nike Site. “It’s just part of the branding we’re trying to do here.”
The commissioners discussed the branding issue last July and mentioned more signage on major highways. But Lewis said he had no idea they would change the interstate exit’s name.
He’s concerned that this rebranding of Collier Township is taking away from the history of the small villages–some of the others include Federal, Presto, Fort Pitt, Cubbage Hill and Rennerdale–that were major landmarks for coal mines and railroads.
“They want to take away all the history of the township,” Lewis said. “They’re taking away of all the identities of these communities.”
PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi said it wasn’t a difficult decision, however, because Kirwan Heights is not a municipality. He said it was a natural fit to transition to “Collier Exit” because that is the reigning municipality.
“It made sense from our perspective because Kirwan Heights is a community within Collier Township,” Struzzi said.
Of course, it also raises questions if other municipalities will petition PennDOT to change nearby interstate exits. For example, the Bridgeville interchange at Exit 54 is actually in South Fayette.
“I hope it doesn’t open a can of worms,” Struzzi said.
Lewis also pointed to the Carnegie exit, which is really in Collier Township, and wondered why that exit wasn’t changed instead. Ultimately, he hopes Exit 55 can be altered to include Kirwan Heights again.
“It’s a shame that this is what happened here,” Lewis said.