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All Change at the Interchange

Mon May 14, 2007 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed

After the winter shutdown, work now continues on rebuilding the Fort Washington Interchange as part of a $330 million project to reconstruct and update the Fort Washington Expressway (SR 309) in Montgomery County, Pa.

Project Background

Planning for the 10.2-mi. (16.4 km) long expressway, which was to be built on a right of way formerly owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, began in the mid 1940s. The first section, completed in 1958, included an interchange with the Pennsylvania Turnpike at Fort Washington. The expressway was completed in 1960, but since then design flaws have become apparent, including too short acceleration and deceleration lanes, sight distances that are limited and lack of shoulders.

Approximately 55,000 vehicles travel the expressway daily according to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC).

In 1998 the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) unveiled its project to reconstruct the expressway. This will involve improving drainage, replacing and replanting wetlands, lengthening deceleration and acceleration lanes, constructing median and sound barriers as well as new exit/entrance ramps and shoulders and reconstructing overpasses and bridges. A traffic management system with cameras, variable message boards, and vehicle detecting devices will be added.

In addition, clearance heights for bridges throughout the length of Route 309 will be increased to 17 ft. (5.2 m), as mandated by current federal highway standards regulations.

While work continues, a free, round-the-clock towing service will be provided by PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) in order to keep work site “cattle chutes” (temporary traffic lanes) free of stranded vehicles.

Fort Washington



Work on the Fort Washington interchange section of the Route 309 project is being performed as a joint venture by Nyleve Bridge Corporation, based in Emmaus, Pa., and James D. Morrissey Inc., of Philadelphia, Pa. Rebuilding the interchange will cost approximately $82.6 million, funding for which is being provided by the Federal Highway Administration and PennDOT with a 90 percent and 10 percent split, respectively.

The Fort Washington Interchange job was bid on Aug. 16, 2003 and work commenced on Jan. 3, 2005. PennDOT had already upgraded stretches of key roads leading to Route 309 as well as improving numerous intersections in order to prepare these highways for increased traffic flow as the project continued, while also concentrating its repaving work for several previous years on those particular thoroughfares.

Work has reached Stage 3 and is scheduled for completion on or by June 1, 2007.

“Stage 3 consists of the bridge and roadway widening adjacent to northbound lanes throughout the project,” said Gary S. Leader, senior superintendent of Nyleve Corporation. “This will facilitate the shift of the northbound lanes onto the widened lanes and the southbound lanes onto the existing northbound lanes.

“There will be two other stages that will virtually complete the project,” he added. “Stage 4 will be the complete demolition of the existing southbound lanes and their replacement with all of the proposed ramps tying in to them. Stage 5 will be the complete demolition of the existing northbound lanes and the interconnection of all work performed in Stages 3 and 4. Stage 6 is the asphalt surfacing of the entire project.”

Although at peak, approximately 100 workers, including subcontractors and a paving crew, were working on site, the number of employees was reduced at the beginning of January in preparation for the winter season, during which the project will be running with approximately 40 workers.

“Together with our joint venture partner we have a large equipment inventory on site, with the ability to draw additional resources from our yards,” said Leader. “Equipment working on the job includes 90- and 50-ton P&H conventional cranes, a 28-ton P&H hydraulic crane, and a 30-ton Terex hydraulic crane. We have rented cranes as large as a 550-ton hydraulic for several specialized lifts.

“Between Nyleve Bridge Corporation and James D. Morrissey Inc. we usually have several dozers in the D-4 to D-8 class on site. We are using Volvo, Cat and Hitachi hydraulic excavators, all in the 70,000 class. Loaders range from a John Deere 455 to Cat 977 and various other types of minor equipment.”

Few Problems


In addition to rebuilding the interchange at Fort Washington this section of the overall project includes widening Route 309 in order to add collector-distributor lanes for vehicles bound for the Turnpike, construction of retaining walls and ramps, and replacing a bridge carrying the Norfolk Southern Railroad across SR 309.

This new railroad bridge features abutments built further apart in order to accommodate the additional interchange lanes, longer exit and entrance ramps, and wider shoulders.

Virtually no major problems have arisen, Senior Superintendent Leader said.

“We have experienced minor hurdles in conjunction with the Norfolk Southern Railroad structure. We were directed to use full penetration welds for the through girders, which added six weeks to the production time. In addition, the railroad used approximately 89 days to switch over to the temporary trestle structure we erected for them, which was 50 days more than was allotted in the contract. Both of these delays were mitigated by devising an additional ramp and changing detours.”

Summing up the Fort Washington project, Leader observed that the job is on schedule to be completed on or before Oct. 20, 2008.

“It’s an exciting project from many points of view, particularly along the equipment view. We are either using or have used every piece of equipment from a Bobcat to a 550-ton hydraulic crane,” he added.

About the Nyleve Bridge Corporation

The Nyleve Bridge Corporation, founded in the 1950s, specializes in bridge construction and rehabilitation. It also carries out concrete work for tunnel construction as well as concrete demolition, pile and sheet driving, and formwork.

The company’s clients include the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), the city of Philadelphia, PennDOT and Conrail. CEG

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