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Francis J. Palo Building Johnsonburg Bypass Bridge

Thu August 24, 2006 - Northeast Edition
David Hunt

Francis J. Palo Inc. of Clarion, PA, is working on schedule to build a six-span bridge as part of the first of four construction sections to bypass Route 219 around Johnsonburg in northcentral Pennsylvania.

“Johnsonburg has been faced with a lot of truck traffic downtown,” said Paul Roman, president of Palo. “It will be good for the community to get the traffic out of town.”

Much of that truck traffic passes through a Weyerhauser Paper facility located in Johnsonburg. The existing Route 219 cuts through the middle of that facility.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has divided the Johnsonburg Bypass project into four sections to be built over the next four years. The scope of work on this first $12-million section involves building a superelevated, prestressed concrete bridge that includes six spans, five piers and two abutments.

“The piers on the superelevated structure are located at different skews to create a reverse curve on the structure,” said John Covert, project engineer of PennDOT.

Doug Bidic, project superintendent of Palo, said sandy soil on the site has forced the operation to drive piling 35 ft. (10.7 m) into the ground to reach support.

Palo has hired Douglass Pile Company of Bridgeville, PA, to supply and drive the 12 and 14-in. (30.5 and 35.6 cm) piles. Douglass is using a 50-ton (45 t) P&H Lima crane to move and drive piling.

Prime contractor Palo is running a large P&H 670 crane to service the bridge’s abutment one. Palo also is running a Grove RT 60 crane to work on pier footers and stems.

Palo is subcontracting with DuBrook of St. Mary’s, PA, to place concrete to create the bridge piers and abutments. On July 6, Palo placed 210 cu. yds. (161 cu m) of Class A concrete to create the first of three sections that will form abutment one.

Except for the cap, concrete work has been completed on pier two, one of the structure’s five piers.

Before the end of the construction season, Covert hoped to have bridge beams set on the six-span structure. He also is looking for Palo to compact .25 mi. (.4 km) of highway, allowing the material to settle over the winter.

Prestressed concrete I-beams for the bridge will be set by Alvarez Inc. of Finleyville, PA.

The new 12-ft. (3.7 m) lanes and 10-ft. (3 m) shoulders for the Johnsonburg Bypass will be paved with 10 in. (25 cm) of 2A subbase, 10 in. (25 cm) of BCBC, 3 in. (7.6 cm) of binder and 2 in. (5 cm) of Superpave wearing course.

Covert said the contractor is doing an admirable job in completing the project, facing constraints that include environmental concerns and a railroad right of way, which runs through the construction zone.

The cartway for the new road will sit parallel to an active rail line, which supports the paper plant. Since railroad right of way takes precedence over highway right of way under the law, railroad approval for some of the construction features has been required, slowing the natural progression of work. However, Covert said the contractor has adjusted by performing some work out of phase to keep the project on schedule.

Bidic said Palo is trucking in rock — to line the river — from land it purchased locally, generating some savings on the project. He said 40,000 cu. yds. (30,582 cu m) of fill, 7,000 cu. yds. (5,352 cu m) of R7 rock and 3,000 cu. yds. (2,294 cu m) of R6 rock will be trucked in to build the project.

Covert is the lone PennDOT representative working on the project site. L. Robert Kimball & Associates of Ebensburg, PA, is serving as the prime engineering inspector on the job, while SAI Engineering of Woodbridge, VA, is supplying personnel on the job.

Covert is working with the Elk County Conservation District and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to control erosion and sedimentation on the site. A branch of the Clarion River, designated as a high quality stream, runs through the project site.

“The contractor has been very cooperative with the erosion and sedimentation plan and everyone involved recognizes the urgency of keeping the stream clean,” Covert said.

The erosion and sediment control on the project includes supersilt barrier fence staked to the ground, straw bale barriers, rock barrier, filter bags, and finally, a rock lining closest to the stream to help filter out sediment particles, protecting the stream’s habitat, he explained.

Covert said the people of Johnsonburg have been generally supportive of the project and their concerns about the project are handled quickly.

In all, 1,600 ft. (488 m) of sound wall will be erected late this year to mitigate noise from the new bypass. CEG

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