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Pa. Continues Major Span Improvement Project

Mon January 12, 2015 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

A major bridge replacement and widening project headed by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is well into construction in Dauphin County, Pa. Throughout the project, three bridges will be replaced, and the roadway will be widened between Mileposts 250 and 252 in Middletown Borough and Lower Swatara and Londonderry townships in Dauphin County. The work zone is situated between the Harrisburg East (Exit 247) and Lebanon-Lancaster (Exit 266) interchanges.

Construction began in the fall of 2013, and is set for completion in mid-2016. The project’s total cost is set at $47.65 million. At the project’s completion, nearly 1.5 mi. (2.4 km) of the turnpike, including the three new bridges, will be wide enough to accommodate future expansion to six lanes east and west of the work zone.

According to the project’s Web site, “the project continues the commission’s long-term, 100 percent toll-financed initiative to rebuild, upgrade and modernize ’America’s First Toll Road,’ its bridges and facilities.”

Construction of this three-year project will reportedly be completed with minimum impact on turnpike travel, though occasional off-peak, short-term lane closures may be necessary for certain stages of construction or beam-setting operations on the new bridges.

The project’s centerpiece and largest dollar-value item is the replacement bridge that carries the turnpike over the Swatara Creek and Swatara Creek Road. Two smaller spans also are being replaced.

The original bridge was built in the 1950s. The new Swatara Creek Bridge will be a four-span structure with three reinforced concrete piers constructed in the stream bed. Abutments will be built in the embankments at both ends of the structure to tie the new bridge into the turnpike’s mainline. The creek bridge will be of steel girder construction with a reinforced concrete deck.

The new bridges over the rail line and Vine Street in Middletown will each be single-span, pre-stressed concrete box beam structures, set atop new abutments, with reinforced concrete decks.

The new bridges will be wide enough to allow for three lanes of traffic in each direction in anticipation of future widening (as yet unscheduled) of the turnpike’s mainline between the Harrisburg East and Lebanon-Lancaster exits.

Segments of the turnpike approaching and connecting the bridges also are being rebuilt and widened to three lanes both eastbound and westbound with the third lane to accommodate for future widening. When this project is completed, the turnpike will remain at two lanes in each direction, with the additional eastbound and westbound lanes painted as shoulders, until the larger widening project is completed.

The newly rebuilt travel lanes will be composed of 21 in. (53 cm) of bituminous pavement in five layers over a 6 in. (15 cm) stone sub-base.

To allow for six 12-ft. (3.6 m) travel lanes, the finished project will have 12-ft. shoulders on each side and a 26-ft. (7.9 m) median with a 4-in. (10 cm) concrete median barrier/glare screen.

Sound barrier walls will be installed along residential areas on both sides of the turnpike to mitigate an anticipated increase in traffic noise. The walls will be installed west of the Swatara Creek Bridge to west of the Vine Street overpass.

Four retaining walls — with sound barrier walls mounted on the top — will be built to support mainline widening between the bridges. An improved storm water drainage system also will be installed, along with permanent detention basins constructed within the right-of-way along the eastbound side of the turnpike east of Vine Street. In addition, 1.5 acres of replacement wetlands will be built within the right-of-way along the westbound side of the turnpike, just east of the new Swatara Creek Bridge.

Traffic cameras will be installed at both ends of the project to allow monitoring of traffic flow through the work zone.

“The contractor’s challenge is dealing with a restricted work area while maintaining two travel lanes in each direction,” said John Ozimok, construction engineering manager.

The construction schedule from fall 2013 to mid-2014 was as follows: clear the site and construct access roads, install erosion controls and drainage, construct detention basin and storm water drainage channels, construct wetland mitigation site, relocate a small stream adjacent to the creek, build a temporary causeway in Swatara Creek for construction of piers and related project activities, reconstruct and widen the turnpike shoulders, reconstruct the turnpike median, and shift turnpike traffic to center.

From mid-2014 to mid-2015, the schedule includes the following: widen the turnpike between bridges to add a third lane and shoulders in each direction, construct four retaining walls to support widening, construct sound barrier walls, demolish outer portion of Vine Street overpass, construct abutments and outer sections of three eastbound and westbound bridges, complete widening and reconstruction of connecting sections of the turnpike, complete detention basins and complete wetlands plantings.

From mid-2015 to mid-2016, the schedule will include shifting eastbound and westbound traffic onto new outside sections of the turnpike roadway, demolishing existing bridges, constructing center sections of three bridges, reconstructing center section of the turnpike roadway, installing median barrier/glare screen, applying permanent pavement markings and shifting traffic into a permanent traffic pattern.

Ozimok noted that there are several cranes, drilling rigs and excavators on site.

The project team includes the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission; Hill International Inc. for construction management; Swank Construction Company LLC, general contractor; Markosky Engineering Group Inc. for construction inspection; HAKS for construction consultation; Sucevic, Piccolomini, and Kuchar Engineering Inc. for structural review; A. D. Marble & Company for environmental monitoring; Advanced Geotechnical Engineering Services (AGES) for geotechnical support; and Bergmaier Communications and EarthSky Studio Inc. for public outreach. CEG

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