A new U.S. 1 bridge is being constructed over an active railroad. Note the power lines overhead. Workers provided support for reconfiguring the power lines as a part of the project.
(Photo courtesy of PennDOT.)
Philadelphia, America's sixth largest city, bristles with four-lane highways and busy thoroughfares carrying citizens, tourists and interstate travelers to their destinations. These busy roads connect the city and visitors to historic locations downtown and fans to sporting venues. Two influential roadways, I-95 and U.S. 1, pass through the city on their way north to Maine or south all the way to Florida.
Pennsylvania DOT (PennDOT) has been making steady progress upgrading U.S. 1 and bridges that service the road. The progress includes safety enhancements, fresh overlays for smoothness and widening projects to handle the need for increased capacity on this busy roadway.
Major improvements are under way along a 4-mi. segment of U.S. 1 known as Lincoln Highway. The project follows on the heels of a successful 14.8 million improvement of U.S. 1 in Middletown Township to modernize the U.S. 1 corridor in Bucks County. That modernization effort was completed in 2014. An additional section improved Old Lincoln Highway to just north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This project was finished in December 2022. More projects for U.S. 1 are in the analysis phases.
The current project, just north of Philadelphia, passes Middletown and Bensalem townships, Langhorne Borough and Langhorne Manor Borough. This limited-access freeway is vital for people who need easy travel to jobs, shopping and everyday community life. J.D. Eckman, a bridge and road constructor since 1945, is the lead contractor on the project. Eckman has led a host of subcontractors on the job which is planned to be completed in summer 2026. The cost of the venture is projected to be $113.5 million.
The current job on U.S. 1 will focus on improvements to U.S. 1, Rockhill Drive and the Neshaminy Interchange. The work also will include improvements to the Business Route 1 (Penndel) Interchange.
"The U.S. 1 Improvement Project focuses on replacing aging bridges and highway safety enhancements of about four miles of the U.S. 1 Expressway known as the Lincoln Highway," said Brad Rudolph, PennDOT spokesman. "The project will reduce congestion and improve safety by providing an additional travel lane in each direction. It will also replace aging infrastructure and provide an updated modern facility for current and future traffic."
Planners and construction crews are accustomed to dealing with bustling traffic while making road upgrades. However, this project had some extra wrinkles. The work team needed to build two new four-span structures while removing an existing five-span structure. Demolition is tricky when dealing with active traffic. But this work had to be done over an active freight railroad and commuter rail line. In addition, a high-voltage transmission structure towered over the work.
Careful With Electricity
"To accommodate the changes, our team relocated the catenary towers supporting the electrical wires," said Rudolph. "These efforts rearranged the span lengths near where our road construction was happening. Also, our team worked to schedule advanced transmission outages to remove existing beams and install new beams over the railroad."
Crane operators demonstrated a light touch handling the bridge beams without interfering with the power lines. One crane boom was placed above the transmission lines with a second boom below to engage the beam on an existing bridge and avoid any obstructions.
Of course, the contractor also coordinated with the railroad to work during off-peak hours.
In addition to juggling these unusual elements, the construction team had to stage the traffic to provide the space and time to get the road work done.
"The project team re-sequenced multiple stages of construction to expedite the work," Rudolph said, estimating that these efforts could reduce the need for traffic restrictions.
Besides using cranes and roadbuilding equipment, the project team needed to use Kleemann Mobicat MC 110 Zi EVO track-mounted jaw crushers. Workers used the crushers to demolish some of the existing concrete on the job and processed it for use as a coarse aggregate for rock embankments, road subgrade and ancillary needs. This saved the contractors from having to produce some 25,000 cu. yds. of concrete.
To provide space for the additional lanes required to widen Route 1, the contractor needed to blast and excavate a large rock slope. The slope was on both the north and southbound lanes of the highway. Workers were able to incorporate approximately 13,500 cu. yds. of this aggregate into the side slopes and embankment for the road. This effort negated the need for many truck trips carrying virgin aggregate to this busy site.
The U.S. 1 work will require the removal of 445,000 cu. yds. of dirt and rock. The project used 135,000 tons of asphalt, 25,000 cu. yds. of concrete and 1,500 tons of steel. Workers also installed 16,000 linear ft. of new storm drainage pipe.
Rudolph and the contracting team enjoy being part of an important project like this.
"U.S. 1 provides important connections within the region, station and nation," he said. "Within the Delaware Valley region, this transportation corridor plays an important role providing mobility and accessibility for residents, business and visitors." CEG
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