Allegheny College, PennDOT Team Up for Eco-Art Project

Fri May 15, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Jennifer Rupp



The latest Crawford County highway project is receiving the same attention from Allegheny College that the SR 6/19/322 area has been getting since the 1990s. The goal: to create an "Eco-Art" project that merges Earth art with best management practices in the environmental mitigation of stormwater runoff.

The concept for "In Praise of Land & Water" integrates aesthetic solutions with targeted environmental remediation of stormwater issues inherent at the project site. All of the stormwater from I-79 and the surrounding topography passes through the cloverleafs, and empties directly into Van Horne Creek, eventually making its way into the French Creek watershed. The initial concept for "In Praise of Land & Water" had its germination in Professor Amara Geffen’s environmental art courses at Allegheny College in Meadville.

In April 2008, an interdisciplinary team was assembled to move preliminary concepts forward into design and engineering development. The team consisted of Geffen; Chris Brown, landscape architect of Derck & Edison Inc.; Steve Halmi of Diess & Halmi Engineering; Angelo Cioui, environmental artist; and Artist Jackie Brookner, who helped with the early phases of design development.

The designs include a series of sculptural check dams, infiltration pools and earth mounds. The check dams are being constructed out of crushed concrete from the demolished bridges. This natural stormwater retention and infiltration scheme will protect vegetation and feature native plantings.

The PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) highway project involves the reconstruction of the Meadville interchange on I-79. Work includes replacement of approximately 1.25 mi. (2 km) of I-79 pavement, the interchange ramps, and widening of Route 6 in the vicinity of I-79. The I-79 structures over Route 6 will be replaced with two 222 ft. (67.7 m) single span bridges. Other work includes drainage, signing, guide rails, pavement markings, highway lighting and landscaping. The reconstruction will take two years to complete.

Joseph B. Fay Company of Russellton, Pa., was awarded the contract for $26,278,207.20. The company began work in April 2008 with the southbound lanes. Fay was contracted for excavation, bridge demolition, site prep and drainage.

Approximately 75,000 cu. yds. (57,375 cu m) of earth will be moved, some of which will be used at the ramp in-fill areas for the Eco-Art project.

Funding for the project is 90 percent federal and 10 percent state.

Amelie Construction & Supply LLC, of Saxonburg, Pa., is furnishing and erecting the 7.5 ft. (2.3 m) steel girder beams. IA Construction Corporation of Zelienople, Pa., is providing paving services, using 106,000 tons (96,142 t) of asphalt.

Strongstown’s B&K Enterprises Inc. of Strongstown, Pa., is providing overhead signs, temporary concrete barriers and signage. The contract for lighting was assigned to Bruce & Merrilees Electric Company of New Castle, Pa.

The southbound portion of the job ran from April to October 2008. During construction, southbound off-ramps to Route 6 in the east and west directions were temporarily closed. Traffic was detoured at the Saegertown interchange via routes 198, 98 and 6. Northbound ramps remained open during this phase of construction.

"The only major challenge [we faced] involved opening a closed ramp five months ahead of original schedule," explained Jannetti. The construction was sped up due to concerns relating to emergency response time and access for the local emergency responders.

PennDOT partnered with Joseph B. Fay Co. to "double shift" the ramp work.

Several meetings regarding project change were held between PennDOT, EMS responders, local businesses and Vernon Township.

Work on the northbound lanes began at the end of March 2009 and is scheduled to be complete in November 2009. Bridge demolition began on April 8. The same detour pattern will be repeated for the northbound reconstruction.

"There will be two ramp detours," said Reggie Jannetti, project manager of PennDOT. "The detour routes are nearby and will only add a couple extra minutes driving time for the few additional miles." Overall, the project called for three Komatsu excavators, a Caterpillar D6 dozer, a Caterpillar D3 dozer, a Caterpillar IT28 wheel loader, a Volvo backhoe, a 50-ton (45.4 t) crane, a caisson drill rig, a crawler crane with pile-driving rig, milling machines and asphalt pavers.

Gregory T. Fried Construction of Harrisburg, Pa., is adding a stain to the stone concrete finish poured by Joseph B. Fay using special form liners for the bridge abutments.

"The Eco-Art in the infields will definitely be more pleasing to the eye," said Jannetti. ³The wildflowers and warm-season grasses will enhance the interchange area. Additionally, the colored stone on the bridge abutments will make the bridge tie-in better with the rural setting.