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Pa. Interchange Receives $57M Makeover

Wed March 08, 2017 - National Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is currently working on a $57 million road widening project in Washington County, Pa.

The contract calls for reconstruction, widening and safety improvements to the I-70/SR19 interchange in Washington, Pa. Besides the reconstruction and widening of 1.2 mi. (1.9 km) of interstate roadway, the project also includes new on- and off-ramps connecting I-70 with SR19; two I-70 mainline bridge rehabilitations; a full depth reconstruction of 0.5 mi. (.8 km) of SR19 (Murtland Ave) with its new diverging diamond traffic pattern; and the reconstruction and widening of the I-70 West to I-79 North ramp.

The contract was awarded to Golden Triangle Construction Co. Inc., under the direction of Eric Klimas and Wido Sagerer.

“The biggest challenge from the contractor's standpoint was probably securing all necessary resources to meet the aggressive project schedule,” said Valerie Petersen of PennDOT. “In particular, the 2015 and 2016 seasons had a lot of work squeezed into a relatively short construction season [seven to eight months]. In 2015, all of I-70 Eastbound, all four I-70/Sr19 ramps, and the majority of SR19 [diverging diamond] had to be constructed. In 2016, I-70 Westbound and I-79 North ramps had to be built.”

Petersen noted that another challenge was the actual implementation of the diverging diamond pattern on Route 19.

“This work required thorough planning/coordination with all parties involved [PennDOT, traffic signal subcontractor, pavement marking subcontractor and multiple traffic crews from the prime contractor] beforehand so that the night of the actual traffic switch would go without any difficulties, which it did,” she said.

A challenge from the early stages of the project noted by Petersen involved finding a waste area in close proximity to the project and getting the permit for it approved in a timely manner.

“Fortunately, the project had only minor utility and ROW issues which did not result in any delays or extra costs,” she said. “Unforeseen field conditions leading to big change orders and/or delays have not played a big role, either.”

The Diverging Diamond Interchange is one of the unique aspects of the project. Another is that part of the existing concrete roadway was recycled to subbase material used under new pavement. Besides the cost savings, this also eliminated a large amount of waste, according to Petersen.

The entire project covers 1.2 mi. of interstate and 0.5 mi. of Route 19. It includes 300,000 cu. yds. (229,366.5 cu m) of earth moved; 220,000 tons (199,581 t) of aggregates used; 65,000 cu. yds. (49,696 cu m) of concrete poured; and 55,000 tons (49,895 t) of asphalt paved.

Major subcontractors on the job include Bruce & Merrilees, for temporary and permanent highway lighting including high mast lighting poles, ITS and temporary and permanent traffic signals; Strongstown's B&K, for temporary and permanent concrete barrier, permanent signs and sign structures; and The U Company, for seeding and guide rail.

Major equipment used includes the following: for earth moving, a Cat 336 and a Komatsu 360; for stone placement, a Cat D6K dozer and a Cat 12M grader; for concrete paving, a Gunnert & Zimmerman S600; for asphalt paving, a Cat AP655, a Cat AP1055, a Cat CB 54 roller, a Cat CB44 roller and a Cat CB22 roller.

According to PennDOT's website, I-70 was originally envisioned as the connecting route between north Washington and the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Monroeville. However, the Department of Highways later designated that route as I-79 and proposed the I-70 corridor take on a new alignment that would connect the West Virginia state line to the Maryland state line. The construction of the I-70 corridor as we know it today began in 1953, connecting Bentleyville and S.R. 481. Over the following 15 years, I-70 was built section by section and fully completed by 1968.

PennDOT District 12 is responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of I-70 from the West Virginia state line east to New Stanton, Pa. (exit 57). This stretch of I-70 connects with three other Pennsylvania Interstate routes: I-79, I-43 (PA Turnpike Extension) and I-76 (PA Turnpike Mainline) and West Virginia's I-70.

Some roadway and bridge sections of I-70 in southwestern Pennsylvania were constructed more than 55 years ago. As a result, PennDOT is frequently monitoring the conditions of the Interstate to identify priority rehabilitation and reconstruction needs to improve safety and better accommodate today's motor vehicles.

As funding is available, PennDOT's goal is to address the following: replace or rehabilitate existing deteriorating bridges (structurally deficient); upgrade existing interchange acceleration and deceleration ramps; improve the roadway geometry; replace bridges with less than 16 ft. 6 in. (5 m) under clearance; and improve interchange traffic flow.

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