After 44 Years, Erie Access Job Nears Finish

Tue August 10, 2004 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

A major road project with roots in the 1960s is nearing completion more than 40 years later in Erie, PA.

Upon its full completion, the East Side Access Highway (State Route 4034) will open a direct link from Interstate 90 east of Erie into the downtown and bayfront areas. It will then loop back to I-90 via the Bayfront Parkway and I-79 on the east side of Erie. It also is intended to correct deficiencies in traffic flow through the eastern part of Erie and its suburban townships.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the total value of complete project is approximately $173 million.

The East Side Access Highway project began as a series of transportation studies in 1962. At the time, concerns included traffic congestion and safety issues within the east side of the city of Erie and adjacent communities. A number of transportation studies were conducted over the years, but the preferred connector route was rejected in 1986 under public opposition.

Then in 1991, the Erie East Side Needs Analysis was prepared by KCI Technologies. It identified transportation-related deficiencies experienced by people who live, work, shop and even merely drive through the East Side. Problems included insufficient capacity of the existing transportation system to support existing and projected growth, lack of sufficient north/south access over the railroad tracks, high accident rates on many links of the existing street system, and insufficient mass transit service to serve existing and projected growth.

In 1992, GAI Consultants, Monroeville, PA, was authorized by PennDOT to initiate an Environmental Impact Statement based on the identified needs. The team examined five new roadway alignments in conjunction with management strategies and improvements. It was determined that four additional traffic lanes (two in each direction) were required to provide access across the tracks and to unload congestion from the existing transportation network.

Over the next three years, five new roadway alternatives were examined, and a preferred alignment was selected. In March 1997, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) authorized PennDOT to proceed to final design, right of way acquisition and construction of the East Side Access Highway.

The project was divided into six different sections, each of which could stand alone.

Section A50

The first segment under construction was Section A50, between the Bayfront Highway and 6th Street. GAI Consultants was the lead engineering firm. One challenge with this section was the extra noise generated by traffic on the new roadway.

The team worked with residents to find an acceptable solution, which included erecting a sound barrier, which measures approximately 1,000 linear ft. (304.9 m).

In addition, a linear park along the roadway helped to increase the aesthetic appeal of the new road and to provide a safe and pleasing walkway for pedestrians.

The prime contractor was Kirila Contractors, Brookfield, OH.

This section involved construction of approximately one-half mi. (.8 km) of plain cement concrete pavement, and reconstruction of four intersections. This first section took 18 months to complete and was opened to traffic in July 1999.

It involved more than 6,000 cu. yds. (4,587 cu m) of concrete, 66,000 cu. yds. (50,461 cu m) of excavation and 1 mi. (1.6 km) of drainage pipe.

Section A51

The contract for final design and construction of Section A51 (the area between 6th and 12th streets) was awarded to Urban Engineers of Erie Inc. The prime contractor was Mascaro Contracting LLP, Pittsburgh, for a contract amount of $14 million.

Challenges for this section included the relocation/reconstruction of three-quarters of a mi. (1.2 km) of rail track, construction of four MSE retaining walls, and replacement of 800 linear ft. (244 m) of 96-in. (244 cm) RCC pipe culvert. This section opened to the public in spring 2002.

Section A60

The third section, A60, involves 12th Street and Broad Street and is under the direction of Sucevic, Piccolomini and Kuchar Engineering Inc. (SP&K), of Uniontown, PA. The prime contractor is the Brayman Construction Corporation, Saxonburg, PA, for a contract amount of $21.9 million.

The group is currently working on an aggressive schedule to allow this section to open to the public by the end of 2004.

Challenges to this portion of the project include its extensive railroad involvement and relocation, the handling of contaminated soil on the site, and construction through a working scrap yard.

Section A60 involves more than 100,000 cu. yds. (76,455 cu m) of excavation, along with 6,000 linear ft. (1,829 m) of new pavement.

Major subcontractors include J.C. Lee Construction, Petrolia, PA, drainage; Joseph McCormick Construction, Erie, paving; John Gulisek Construction, Mount Pleasant, PA, concrete curb and curb gutter work; and Marta Track Contractors, Eighty-Four, PA, railroad track construction.

The equipment list includes Caterpillar excavators and dozers, John Deere graders, and Grove cranes.

Section A70

The final design contract for Section A70 (Broad Street to McClelland Avenue) was awarded to GAI Consultants, and the prime contractor is Dick Corporation, Pittsburgh. The contract amount was $10.3 million.

This section, which covers 1.25 mi. (2 km), is expected to be completed by the end of 2004.

Major challenges include coordinating work with an operating rail bulk material processing facility, excavation and disposal of approximately 25,000 cu. yds. (19,114 cu m) of heavy metal contaminated soil and 75,000 cu. yds. (57,342 cu m) of other excavation.

This section also involves constructing three storm-water detention basins, two sound barriers of more than 1,000 linear ft. (304.8 m), and more than 6,000 linear ft. (1,829 m) of bituminous pavement and highway lighting.

Subcontractors include John Gulisek Construction, drainage work; Bruce & Merrilees Electric, electrical; and Joseph McCormick Construction Company, bituminous paving.

Caterpillar manufactured most of the equipment used in this section, and was contractor owned. Other brands used include Dynapac, Case, John Deere, Komatsu and Volvo.

Section A80

Section A80 includes the Wintergreen Gorge Bridge and the roadway between the bridge and McClelland Avenue. The final design contract for the bridge was awarded to Michael Baker Jr. Inc., Pittsburgh, and the contract for roadway design was awarded to GAI Consultants. The prime contractor was Dick Corporation, and the contract amount was $31.9 million. This section was opened to the public in fall 2003.

A major challenge for this section was that it was identified as a biologically diverse area, which required minimizing environmental disturbances.

It was unique in the fact that it included a new 1,100-ft. (335.3 m) long bridge across the Wintergreen Gorge. The bridge is 100 ft. (30.5 m) above the gorge and incorporates the first automated anti-icing system in a new bridge in the United States. This system uses numerous weather sensors to detect ice-forming conditions, which then activates spray nozzles to melt any ice that forms on the road surface.

This section also involved installing traffic signals at three intersections in addition to the installation of three new railroad crossings. A sound barrier wall and a 2.5-acre (1 ha) storm water management pond also were constructed.

The project involved more than 9,000 cu. yds (6,881 cu m) of concrete placed in the Wintergreen Gorge Bridge, along with more than 465 tons (418.5 t) of reinforcing steel.

The steel beams used for the bridge were more than 100 ft. (30.5 m) long and 15 ft. (4.6 m) deep, and weighed between 90 and 99 tons (81 and 89.1 t) each. The section involved 1.3 mi. (2.1 km) of new four-lane road using Superpave bituminous pavement.

Major subcontractors included Structural Services, Bethlehem, PA, structural steel work; Brayman Construction, Saxonburg, PA, installing H-piles for the bridge piers; John Gulisek Construction, Mount Pleasant, PA, drainage work; Bruce & Merrilees Electric, New Castle, traffic signals, other lighting, and electrical work; Russell Standard Corporation, Union City, PA, Superpave roadway; Traffic Solutions Incorporated, New Castle, PA, automated anti-icing system; and J&B Welding Incorporated, Coopersburg, PA, deck pans and shear studs on the new bridge.

Section A91

Section A91 involves the roadway between the Wintergreen Gorge and Interstate 90. PennDOT awarded a final design contract to GAI Consultants, and Dick Corporation, Pittsburgh, was the prime contractor, for an amount of $13.2 million.

This section was opened to the public in fall 2003. The project involved relocating wetlands, extensive landscaping, and the placement of about 2,000 trees and plants. A pedestrian bridge and a system of walkways also were constructed for the Penn State Campus.

In addition, four intersections required traffic signals, and storm water management facilities were needed.

The project involved nearly 250,000 cu. yds. (191,139 cu m) of excavation and nearly 105,000 sq. yds. (87,793 sq m) of new pavement.

Major subcontractors included John Gulisek Construction, Mount Pleasant, PA, drainage work; and Bruce & Merrilees Electric, New Castle, traffic signals and electrical work.

Most of the major equipment used in this section was by Caterpillar. Other brands included Dynapac, Case, John Deere, Komatsu and Volvo.