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Tue January 27, 2015 - Northeast Edition
A new E-ZPass-only interchange will soon be available to visitors traveling to and from the Pocono Mountains in Carbon County, Pa., on the Turnpike’s Northeastern Extension. The interchange, located between the Mahoning Valley and Pocono interchanges, is scheduled to open to traffic in the spring. The project, which is valued at $23 million, is 100 percent funded by toll dollars and is being coordinated by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
In addition to new northbound and southbound on- and off-ramps, the project includes construction of a new bridge over the Turnpike and widening on Route 903 to accommodate turn lanes to the Turnpike ramps. Traffic signals also will be installed at the intersections of Route 903 with the new ramps.
The project is being built in two phases. Phase 1 was completed in 2010, and Phase 2 is currently under construction. Phase 1 was a design-build contract to construct the northern half of the new Route 903 bridge over the Turnpike. Phase 2 construction began in early 2013. In the spring and early summer, initial construction stages included relocation and placement of utilities and widening on the south side along Route 903 on both sides of the Turnpike overpass to accommodate the new ramps. New roadway stormwater drainage was installed as part of the widening.
In early summer to fall 2013, when widening on the south side was completed, Route 903 traffic was shifted onto the new pavement and work began to rebuild the north side of Route 903 on both sides of the Turnpike bridge.
By late 2013, Route 903 traffic was shifted onto the new half-bridge over the Turnpike. The existing overpass was then dismantled, and construction of the southern half of the new bridge began. Reconstruction of the north side of Route 903 continued on both sides of the Turnpike. Construction of this half of the bridge will be completed this spring, and new traffic signals will be installed at the interchange.
Two lanes of traffic in each direction will be maintained during most of construction, but occasional northbound or southbound lane closures were in place to install or move the construction barrier. Turnpike traffic was detoured overnight on weekends during demolition of the old Route 903 overpass, and later during placement of deck beams for the southern half of the new bridge.
“We built a bridge, four toll facilities (two entry and two exit), a box culvert, a concrete roadway, and a bituminous roadway,” said Bernard Bydlon, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission construction engineering manager. “We had to use cranes, bituminous pavers, concrete pavers, concrete trucks, and bituminous trucks. One of the biggest challenges for the contractor was getting the materials to the site, since there were no bituminous or concrete plants in the near vicinity.”
Besides the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the project team includes New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co. Inc. as the general contractor, CECO Associates Inc. as the project designer, construction management by TCMS (Trumbull Construction Management Services), and public outreach by Bergmaier Communications and EarthSky Studios Inc.
The early arrival of cold weather in the Poconos reportedly delayed work last fall. The weather sensitive placement of pavement, which requires consistent temperatures of 40-degrees or above, pushed the opening of the interchange later than originally planned.
Weather permitting, construction activities at various locations within the project limits will include:
• Northeastern Extension (I-476): milling and paving operations on the shoulders to tie into the northbound and southbound entry/exit ramps and placing concrete for the northbound entry and southbound exit ramps.
• State Route 903: paving the widened area on State Route 903. Activation of roadway lighting and traffic signals on Route 903 will be completed in early 2015. The traffic signals will operate in a flashing “test mode” for an appropriate duration prior to the opening of the interchange. Route 903 was reconstructed and widened to accommodate the turn lanes associated with the interchange.
• Tolling Facility: installation of E-ZPass hardware, including gantries, AVI (Automatic Vehicle Identification) readers, cameras, and scales, on the access ramps. Once the hardware is in place, the Turnpike will run a series of tests to ensure that the toll collection equipment is functioning properly.
Motorists on the Turnpike’s Northeastern Extension and on Route 903 will continue to encounter periodic lane closures and brief stoppages weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for the duration of the project during the remaining construction.
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