Located about 40 miles south from the growing and revitalized Pittsburgh metropolitan area in the Monongahela Valley, cities like Charleroi and Donera have been languishing in a land that development forgot. Victimized by the abrupt decline of the steel industry in the late 1970s and the gradual decline of support industries that followed during the '80s and '90s, the Mon Valley has found its economic growth stunted.
But thanks to the lifelong efforts of concrete producer Al Ferrari and other members of the Mon Valley Development Council, things are starting to change. This year residents are experiencing the benefits of the opening of several key links in a four-lane highway and tollway system known as the Mon/Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway, a.k.a. the Highways of Hope. Once fully completed, Mon Valley goods and services are within a day's drive of almost half of the nation.
When the 81-year-old Ferrari, general manager of Gavco Ready Mix in Charleroi and a lifelong valley resident, reviews his role in the successful completion of the project, he believes he's been involved in a promotional role more fellow producers should adopt. Ferrari has found great satisfaction in actively supporting the political process that has led to the region's rebirth. His example has convinced other concrete professionals to help grow the market so that there will be enough business for everyone.
In 1998 Ferrari encouraged his local cement representative to help fund an innovative promotion plan, a bus trip to Washington, D.C., to rally support for the project. The daylong bus ride by area politicians and concerned residents urged their federal representatives to support the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and the Mon/Fayette Expressway.
Included is a sidebar about the effort to brighten mainline bridge parapets on the highway project for the purpose of reducing nighttime accidents.