The section of Route 222, once nick-named the “Road to Nowhere” by local residents because it ended abruptly at the intersection of Route 222/Lancaster Avenue and Route 724, is getting quite a facelift.
The new project is designed to continue Route 222 all the way to Lancaster, PA. Congested traffic, combined with booming residential and commercial growth, led traffic analysts to conclude that a continuation of Route 222 was sorely needed. When completed the new road will divert all through traffic off local roads, such as PA Route 724, PA Route 422, Van Reed Road and Lancaster Avenue. The new highway will be 8 mi. (12.9 km) long with two lanes in each direction separated by a median.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) Right of Way Unit has already contacted homes or businesses that were in the path of construction and all negotiations for properties have been settled. The existing U.S. 222 that runs through the city of Reading will now be referred to as U.S. 222 Business.
The road has received funding from local communities, Berks County, and federal and state transportation revenues such as highway user fees. The total cost of construction for the new U.S. 222 in Berks County is expected to run approximately $116.2 million.
Groundbreaking occurred 1998, and The Hempt Brothers, of Camp Hill, PA, began construction in 1999. It was responsible for the Northern Section of the project at a cost of $22.6 million. This section opened to traffic in November 2000.
The Dick Corporation, of northern Pittsburgh began work on the Central Section in August 2001 at a cost of $45.7 million. The road was opened to traffic in November 2004.
The final phase, or Southern Section, is a joint venture between Reading Site Constructors and Number One Contracting, of Reading PA. This part of the highway is expected to cost $47.8 million. These contractors began their part of the project in the spring of 2003. They expect their section to be open to traffic in late 2006.
Sean Preston, of PennDOT, explained the details of the Southern Section. “The total excavation in cubic yards is 1,274,268. Asphalt paving equaled 7,413 tons. Cement concrete paving added up to 4,300 cubic yards, 11,359 tons of crushed aggregate was used.”
Preston also provided totals for the Central Section: “The total excavation in cubic yards was 1,364,643; 54,861 tons of asphalt paving was utilized. The total in cement concrete paving was 73,00776 cubic yards. The crushed aggregate utilized amounted to 226,466 tons.”
In addition Preston said, “The Southern Section required 18 subcontractors and the Central Section had a total of 26 subcontractors.”
Ron Young, PennDOT spokesperson, admitted there were challenges. “The past two years were the two wettest on record. This caused quite a few scheduling challenges. Traffic delays were minor. During the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. there were some flagging delays as well as minor detours. Nevertheless, we expect the project to be completed on time.”
Jerry Ginsler, of Hempt Brothers, attributed much of his company’s success on the project so far to his equipment. “Most of the Caterpillar equipment we use is purchased from Cleveland Brothers [in Harrisburg, PA], and we’re very happy with the way the iron’s performed and the service we’ve received when we’ve needed it.”
Dave Richards, of Reading Site Contractors, currently working on the Southern Section of the project, echoed Ginsler on equipment. “So far the equipment is working well. Giles & Ransome [in Philadelphia] will come out and maintain the trucks if it’s something we can’t do ourselves. They also provide product support.”
Noise level analysis during design determined the location of sound barriers parallel to the new highway. Barriers will deflect high decibel sounds from adjacent residential areas. Though PennDOT admitted sound from passing cars and trucks can be heard at some distance from the roadway, the barriers will prevent decibels levels from being harmful or annoying.
In addition to the current construction, crews are building a 5-mi. (8 km) section of new road on U.S. 222 in the Trexlertown/Wescosville area west of Allentown. This project is based on an engineering study done by PennDOT in 2003 examining the 15-mi. (24.1 km) stretch of Route 222 connecting Berks and Lehigh counties. This study has offered five design concepts for improving traffic in that corridor.
Pennsylvania’s existing process for securing federal and state funds to complete the design and construction of transportation improvement projects is known as the 12-year program. Local communities working through their county planning commissions can alleviate traffic concerns in their area by utilizing this same process. CEG