Lewistown Narrows Project Wraps Up Ahead of Schedule

Mon May 12, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero



The final phase of a $142 million highway project in central Pennsylvania was completed at the end of 2007, ahead of the original schedule.

The Lewistown Narrows project, led by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), involved routes 22 and 322 in Mifflin and Juniata counties. It is a popular route between State College and Harrisburg.

The old highway was a bottleneck and was cited as one of the nation’s most dangerous highways. Plans for the new one resulted in a modern, four-lane limited access roadway with two 12-ft.-wide (3.6 m) lanes in each direction and 10-ft. (3 m) outside concrete shoulders.

After 40 years of planning and delays, the project for the new highway finally began in spring 2005, with an estimated completion date of fall 2008. The contract called for the construction of a 6.65-mi. (10.7 km), four-lane limited access highway through a narrow river valley while maintaining traffic for an arterial highway link in central Pennsylvania.

“The detour route for this project is 55 miles long,” said Joseph Walter, project manager of PennDOT. “The project area has been planned for approximately 40 years, with delays encountered due to funding, environmental considerations, and geotechnical design requirements.”

The original contract amount of $104 million was one of the largest in the history of the state. It was awarded to Walsh Construction, of Illinois. Funding was 20 percent state highway construction funds and 80 percent federal Appalachian funds.

The project included a 12,100-ft. (3,688 m) mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) wall, which is the longest such wall in the United States.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the longest and largest MSE wall in the U.S. or Canada, and the second-longest in the world,” said Sherif Aziz, regional manager of Reinforced Early Co. in Vienna, Va., the wall’s designer and supplier.

In addition, the project included the Macedonia Run Bridge, which is nearly 300 ft. long (91.4 m). Approximately 3 mi. of the westbound lanes are elevated above the eastbound lanes (a bifurcated highway).

According to Marla Fannin, community relations coordinator of PennDOT District 2, contractor Walsh Construction reported that the biggest challenges were tight access, an accelerated schedule, year-round, and sometimes around-the-clock, construction, and the environmental constraints of building the causeway in the Juniata River.

“2006 was the most challenging because that year alone included building four miles of roadway and walls and bringing more than a half-million tons of aggregate into the project, which took a fleet of up to 50 tri-axles per day,” Fannin explained.

Walsh noted that the area has, and is known for, a skilled labor force with a good work ethic, which made the job easier. They also reported a good relationship with PennDOT and the consultant services team.

Fannin said that one of PennDOT’s biggest challenges was ensuring slope stability throughout construction. Another difficulty involved environmental compliance and protection of resources, including waterways, fish, and vegetation. They also worked to maintain one lane of traffic in each direction throughout the project.

Special equipment for the project included an ABI micropile driver, which drilled and placed micropiles at the same time.

“This speed was important because there were 46 miles of micropiles,” Fannin said.

A BANUT pile rig was also used to put in H piles, which totaled 15 mi. (24.1 m) or 81,000 ft. (24,689 m) of steel beam bearing piles.

A Hitachi 1200 excavator assisted workers in moving one million cu. yds. (764,555 cu m) of rock, and an on-site concrete batch plant produced 125,000 cu. yds. (95,693 cu m) of concrete. In addition, 45,000 cu. yds. (34,405 cu m) of concrete was locally supplied by Juniata Concrete Co.

Excavation involved two million cu. yds. (1.5 million cu m), including one million cu. yds. of rock. There were 400,000 tons (362,873 t) of backfill involved in the project.

A reinforced concrete retaining wall totaled 1.7 mi. (2.7 km), and the project included 2.8 mi. (4.5 km) of MSE walls.

Major subcontractors for the project were Protection Services Inc., maintenance and protection of traffic; Hiram Wible & Son Inc., trucking; Hillis-Carnes Engineering Associates Inc., geotechnical monitoring; Strongstown’s B&K Enterprises, temporary concrete barrier and impact attenuating devices; Hi-Tech Rockfall Constructions Inc., rockfall protections systems and rock scaling; Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., bituminous paving; Independence Excavating Inc., rock crushing off site; Wampum Hardware Co., blasting; and Eastern Steel Constructors Inc., furnishing and installing reinforcing steel.

The project was completed in three sections. A10, the Arch Rock interchange in Juniata County, was done by Glenn O. Hawbaker, State College, at a cost of $12.9 million. It was opened to traffic in the fall of 2003. Section A11, the Route 22/322 Lewistown interchange with Business Route 22 in Mifflin County, was completed in 2005 at a cost of $19.1 million by Dick Corporation, Pittsburgh. The third and final section was A09.

Work is still being done on Pennsylvania Canal Park, which will include a visitor’s center, picnic area, and fishing and boating access to the Juniata River. A portion of a former canal system lock and the lockkeeper’s house are being restored to satisfy commitments to the PA Historic and Museum Commission. Built in 1860, the canal house will serve as a museum/visitor center. Plans are to complete the work by late spring of 2008. CEG