Huge Route 309 Project Nears Finish Line

Tue March 03, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed




Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) $350 million reconstruction of the 10-mi. (16 km) long Route 309 Expressway in and around Fort Washington, Pa., is now well on the way to completion.

Overall the Route 309 project called for rebuilding the expressway, its shoulders, and several overpasses or bridges, lengthening existing ramps and constructing a new southbound off-ramp and northbound on-ramp, as well as widening the north-bound ramp at the expressway’s northern end to two lanes and the intersection of Route 63 (Welsh Road) and Route 309 to three lanes. Eight bridges were constructed and Pennsylvania Avenue (state Route 2027) was converted to a two-way road between Fort Washington and Oreland.

Construction of sound walls ranging between about 8 and 16 ft. (2.4 and 4.9 m) in height also was carried out. Because this is not a new highway or a major highway reconstruction project, PennDOT would not fund sound walls from its federal transportation allotment and did not include them in its design.

However, local Congressman Joseph Hoeffel and former Congressman Jon Fox were instrumental in obtaining two grants totaling $9 million in earmarked federal funding for this purpose under the 1998 Federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). The Commonwealth was required to match this designated funding and contributed $2.25 million.

The Route 309 project was divided into several sections. Sections 1FF and 2FF covered advance intersection work, Section 110 involved reconstructing the Pennsylvania Turnpike overpass and the Madison overpass located just south of Highland Avenue, Section 100 covered from Route 73 to Highland Avenue, Section 103 covered reconstruction of the Fort Washington interchange with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Section 102 dealt with the construction between Cheltenham Road and Route 73, Section 101 is currently constructing the northern section from Highland Avenue to Welsh Road, with Section 104 running concurrently. The latter involves in the installation of an Intelligent Traffic System (ITS) throughout the corridor.

Work on the first two sections were carried out between 2001 and 2003 ahead of construction of the new Fort Washington interchange. This initial phase involved replacement of two bridges over Route 309 with structures featuring lengthier spans in order to accommodate wider shoulders and longer ramps. In addition, during 2002 more than thirty local roads and intersections underwent improvements to accommodate traffic rerouted while work on the interchange was under way.

PennDOT began rebuilding the expressway in 2004 with reconstruction of section 100 between Highland Avenue and Route 73 at a cost of $57.9 million. That job was completed in spring 2007. In 2005 PennDOT began the $82.6 million job of constructing new access ramps at the Fort Washington interchange. Rebuilding the southern part of Route 309 under Section 102 also began in 2005 at a cost of $88.3 million, while reconstruction of 4 mi. (6.4 km) of highway running between Highland Avenue and Route 63 in the townships of Upper Dublin and Lower Gwynedd respectively in Section 101 carried a price tag of $102.48 million.

Overall about 3 acres (1.2 ha) of wetlands were affected, and PennDOT replaced them with more than 5 acres (2 ha) of new wetlands constructed on vacant land featuring high water tables or along streams and spring discharge areas. These new wetlands have been planted with appropriate trees, plants and shrubbery.

Approximately 53,500 vehicles a day use Route 309 and as a community service PennDOT operated a lime green truck patrolling around the clock to provide disabled vehicles with free tows from the work area.

Several sections of the project have been handled by a joint venture between Nyleve Bridge Corporation of Emmaus, Pa., and James D. Morrissey, Inc (JDM) of Philadelphia, Pa.

By December 2008, Nyleve and JDM had completed Section 103, Section 101 had reached the third stage of five, and in Section 104 were installing the Intelligent Traffic System throughout the entire corridor. Work on their sections began in January 2005 and was almost completed in November 2008, with about 20 employees completing streetscape work on Pennsylvania Avenue, punchlist activities and carrying out the ITS installation.

“We’ve used virtually every piece of equipment from a Bobcat to 100,000-pound class excavators, dozers from D-4 to D-8, cranes from 15-ton boom trucks to 550-ton cranes during demolition and erection and cranes from 30-ton hydraulic to 90-ton conventional with 110 feet of boom and 20 feet of jib for general construction work,” Superintendent Gary Leader Sr. of Nyleve Bridge Corporation stated.

“We used so many different equipment manufacturers during the nearly four years on the project it would difficult to name them all, but we did utilize a lot of John Deere, Cat, Hitachi, P&H, Terex [and] Mack to name a few,” he went on.

Work to rebuild the northern part of the expressway in Section 103 began in January 2005. This part of the joint venture job included replacing the bridge carrying SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) lines over state Route 2027 at the southern end of the section. However, one or two problems were associated with this phase.

“We had to design an unexpected temporary ramp to facilitate the construction of the SEPTA bridge over Route 2027,” Leader recalled, “and then the problems on that structure continued in another form. We encountered the hardest rock I have experienced in a long time. We had 7 to 10 feet of gneiss/granite in both Stages 4 and 5 for the SEPTA pier no. 2 footings and JDM had 3 to 6 feet for the entire roadway cut from the east drip edge of the SEPTA structure to the easternmost limit of work, or approximately 45 feet by 400 feet.”

After completion of the new Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge, Nyleve Bridge Corporation followed industry practice and sold the perfectly good working 467-ft. long structure that had temporarily carried the railroad across Route 309 to Versa Steel Inc., of Portland, Ore. The bridge is currently located in Rhode Island.

Leader noted that the contract called for the structure to be erected to carry the Norfolk Southern Railroad in a temporary bypass mode during the demolition of the existing bridge and construction of the new bridge.

Drainage correction and flood control work resolved the flooding commonly experienced in Section 103 after heavy rains. The problem had been caused by the Sandy Run Creek, which runs under the interchange, and for this part of the job, PennDOT worked with conservation groups, townships, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP).

“Nyleve Bridge Corporation and our joint venture partner James D. Morrissey are proud to have completed this project and to provide the traveling public with much safer and highly upgraded roadway to enjoy for many years to come,” Nyleve’s Leader concluded. CEG