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PennDOT Replaces Deteriorating Interstate 84

A then-new mixture of concrete in the 60's causes an urgent problem in the present.

Tue December 16, 2014 - Northeast Edition
Lori Lovely

All of Interstate 84, which connects Northeast Pennsylvania to New York State and New England, needs to be replaced, caused by the use of a then-new mixture of concrete in the 1960s.

According to a report by the News Eagle, an unforeseen alkali-silica chemical reaction occurred with the rock underlayment, forming a gel inside the concrete. The gel expands with water and cracks the concrete, which slowly erodes, resulting in a gradual deterioration stemming from the base of the road over the ensuing decades. If not repaired, the entire surface would eventually crumble.

The cement industry changed the chemical makeup of cement in the 1960s. The new formula became the industry standard. Interstate 84 was built, using this concrete, between 1972 and 1977. The chemical makeup appears to come from rocks in local quarries, which were used for I-84 in Pike County because PennDOT has not noticed signs of alkali-silica reaction in Wayne and Lackawanna counties, where a different contractor used different quarries during the original construction.

Today’s cement formula includes fly ash, which prevents the chemical reaction.

In 1997, PennDOT laid asphalt over the concrete in Pike to try to hold it together. However, as potholes form, more water seeps into the concrete below the asphalt, accelerating deterioration of the road.

PennDOT spokesman James May said, “Interstate 84 is rotting from bottom up. If we do nothing, 84 will be a dirt road in 10 years. The only way to fix it is to rip it out and start new.”

The reconstruction of this 30-mi. (48.3 km) stretch of I-84 in eastern Pike County is among the largest PennDOT endeavors in the four-county District #4 region and possibly in the state. Estimated to cost $300 to $400 million, the whole project is projected to last at least 10 years. It has been divided into five sections, which won’t necessarily be completed in consecutive order.

Number One

Section One starts at the New York border and ends at mile marker 46, the Milford exit. It includes eight bridges. PennDOT Construction Manager Carla Medura said, “The first section, from Exit approximately 1.8 miles east of SR 2011 westbound to a point 0.8 mile west of U.S. Route 6 in New York State in Orange County, New York, received Notice to Proceed on October 28, 2013. Bid at $66.4 million, its expected completion date is April 27, 2016.”

PennDOT will totally replace the east- and westbound bridges over Route 6 at Matamoras; the two bridge decks over Foster Hill Road will be replaced; two more decks will be replaced over Cummins Hill Road; and the bridges over Saw Hill Creek will be replaced from beam to deck.

Work began with temporary paving of the interstate’s westbound lanes between mi. marker 46 in Milford, Pike County, and the New York State line, reducing traffic to a single lane for about eight mi. through November while rehabilitation and improvement took place.

“Rehabilitation and improvements include the reconstruction of the cement concrete roadway in the eastbound and westbound directions,” Medura said. The concrete mixture consists of Superpave wearing, binder, the base course and subbase.

“The goal of the project is the removal of [the] SR concrete roadway,” Medura said. She mentioned the need for replacement of the existing deteriorated concrete base to provide a better riding surface for drivers. Daily, an average of 19,475 vehicles use this roadway.

Other work this construction season includes two new bridges, rehabilitation of four three-span bridges and two six-span bridges, new concrete decks, construction of a new PA bulb tee beam bridge, rehabilitation of five culverts, one fabricated T-wall retaining wall, removal of existing bridges, sanitary sewer work, guiderail, updated drainage and pavement markings. Medura said all this work is “contained within an overall project length of 8.62 miles eastbound and 8.962 miles westbound.”

Overseeing work as general contractor is Pa.-based James D. Morrissey Inc. Crews are currently working Monday to Friday from dawn to dusk and Saturday dawn to afternoon, Medura said. During those hours, they use excavators, dozers, rollers, a hoe ram, trenchers, a paving machine, a material transfer vehicle, dump trucks, a water truck, a tack truck, cranes, backhoes, conveyor belts and a high lift to move materials.

This first leg of the project will use:

• 12.5 mm — 320,310 sq. yd. (267,820 sq m) of Superpave Asphalt Mixture Design Base Course 25mm, binder course 19mm and wearing course;

• 1.15 million lbs. (519,728 kg) of reinforcement bars, epoxy coated;

• 95,367 linear ft. (29,068 m) of Geotextile, Class 1;

• 353,130 sq. yds. (295,262 sq m) of Geotextile, Class 4, Type A;

• 485,912 sq. yds. (406,284 sq m) of Subbase (No. 2A);

• 50,757 linear ft. (15,471 m) of guiderail;

• 433,380 cu. yds. (331,343 cu m) of excavation; and

• 5,782 cu. yds. (4,421 cu m) of concrete.

“All fill dirt used on the job was taken from the job site,” Medura said. “Dirt was stockpiled and used on the job site.”

Concrete and other materials were removed to an offsite location, she added. “The Contractor is responsible for completely removing the concrete. No concrete material is to be placed within the project limits, including burying in median areas or elsewhere on site. The concrete was recycled.”

No landscaping is needed, Medura said. There was grading of the median along with seeding. Lighting was installed between Matamoras and the Route 6/209 bridge in both the eastbound and westbound directions.

Time for Traffic

PennDOT has been coordinating the work with a separate New York State Department of Transportation project overhauling the Delaware River Bridge. They rerouted westbound traffic to single lanes on the eastbound side between mi. markers 46 and 50, with lanes separated by a concrete barrier, and westbound traffic to the eastbound lanes between mi. marker 52 and New York’s Port Jervis exit.

After this construction season, PennDOT will reverse the setup, routing eastbound traffic to the westbound lanes while crews replace the eastbound lanes by December 2015, Medura said.

“Traffic was restricted to single lane,” Medura said. “In 2014, westbound traffic was diverted to eastbound lanes utilizing crossovers. Emergency pull-offs were constructed in case of emergencies.

“Backups were encountered during major holiday traffic due to single-lane traffic,” Medura added. Holiday restrictions are in place for all major holidays; there are no short-term lane closures on these days. Bridge width restrictions also are in place due to single lane construction.

The plan is for crews to finish remaining work and cleanup the following spring. A “major challenge” to that plan, Medura said, is time and weather. Crews were busy constructing “approximately 8.6 miles of roadway, one replacement bridge and three superstructures prior to Thanksgiving for westbound in 2014 and eastbound in 2015. The project requires two lanes in both directions open for the winter.”

Challenging Work

Because the Milford Borough Water Authority obtains drinking water from the Sawkill Creek watershed, the contractor is forbidden to store any hazardous materials or equipment within the watershed.

“The project is located within an area of Pike County that has the water quality designation of Exception Value, High Quality Cold Water Fishery and Cold Water Fishery,” Medura said.

Other challenges include the coordination of the adjacent New York Department of Transportation Delaware Bridge Project (an approximately $40 million job).

“Motorist safety and emergency personnel access was another concern,” Medura said. “Metal median gates were installed to allow access at two identified locations where concrete glare screen separated eastbound and westbound traffic.”

Future Sections

Section Two, slated for work between 2015 and 2017, is in the design phase. It will start at Exit 34, Lords Valley/Dingmans Ferry, and end at mi. marker 40. Section Three will start at mi. marker 18 near Greentown/Lake Wallenpaupack and go to Exit 26, Tafton/Promised Land State Park. Section Four will replace pavement from mi. marker 40 to Milford, Exit 46. Section Five will extend from Exit 26, Tafton/Promised Land State Park, to Lord’s Valley, Exit 34. Timeline and details of the last three phases depend on finding funding from the state, according to the Pocono Record.

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