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Ramps Meet the ’Grade’ at I-80 Brookville

Tue November 23, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Jennifer Rupp

By Jennifer Rupp


One of the prominent stops along I-80 in Pennsylvania is Brookville, exit 78.

The town was built in the 1800s, thriving in the lumber industry with the aid of many streams and connections to larger rivers. Lumber mills were built along the watersheds and logs were floated to markets in Pittsburgh.

Lumber and manufacturing still support the town today, but visitors also come to see the Victorian architecture of the Brookville Historic District, the Hazen Flea Market and the Jefferson County Fair.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and HRI Inc. have been hard at work, rehabilitating the I-80/SR 36 Brookville Interchange to provide longer, smoother exit ramps for Brookville travelers. The project includes new concrete shoulders, ramp realignment and construction of acceleration and deceleration lanes. The contract also covers minor bridge rehabilitation, drainage and the construction of a noise barrier wall — all performed by prime contractor HRI Inc. of State College, Pa.

Subcontractor Dixon Electric, based in Claysburg, Pa is installing new traffic signals where the ramps intersect SR 36. The guide rail improvements and seeding was subcontracted to Penn Line Service Inc. of Scottdale, Pa.

Protection Services Inc., headquartered in Harrisburg, is providing traffic control, and Williams & Willman Line Painting, Fenelton, Pa., is in charge of highway markings.

The $9.1 million project began in October 2009. The breakdown of the contract specifies that $7,820,000 is for the interchange itself, and $1,287,000 will be used for the sound barrier. The barrier, located a half mile east of the interchange, will guard a residential neighborhood from highway noise. The sound wall will have a textured finish, which was chosen by the adjacent neighborhood.

“The ramps are being reconfigured to bring them up to federal standards for length,” said Dave Schaffer, PennDOT inspector-in-charge. HRI is removing 85,000 cu. yds. (71,071 cu m) of earth for the new ramps, the majority of which will be reused on the project.

The ramps require 6,600 cu. yds. (5,518 cu m) of concrete and 11,700 tons (10,614 t) of asphalt. Crews are running one shift that lasts anywhere from eight to 15 hours a day.

HRI has been using mostly Caterpillar equipment on the job site, including two 330 trackhoes, a 325 excavator, a 950 rubber-tired loader, a D8 dozer and dual drum rollers. In addition, crews have employed a Case 580 4WD backhoe, a Dresser TD15 dozer, a Gradall, two Walden brooms, and a rented two-gang EZ concrete drill from Sander Power Equipment in Allentown, Pa., for drilling holes and placing dowels for the new roadway.

“The project is going well,” said Rick Knopick, project general superintendent of HRI. “The amount of traffic surprised me for such a small town, but we’ve worked around it.”

Knopick also mentioned that during excavation, HRI ran into some large rocks that took extra time, along with coal removal, which must meet EPA guidelines.

“Our designers knew in advance that there was coal on site,” said Schaffer. “We had a plan in place to undercut three feet below the subgrade and remove the coal. It was then stockpiled and sold to a local coal company.”

Valier Coal Company hauled the coal to its yard in Valier, Pa.

The PennDOT/HRI team had a slight change of plans at the beginning of the project when it incorporated the relocation of a water and sewer line that was not in the original plan.

“We were still in the planning stage when the I-80 project was about to begin,” said Terry O’Neal, water and wastewater commissioner of Brookville Borough. “We were seeking out a new engineer who could get the lines moved in time, but instead HRI integrated the relocation into their plan and the borough reimbursed them for our portion.”

Moving the lines took approximately a month, but HRI was able to work on other tasks simultaneously so it did not set the project behind.

Except for some overnight lane restrictions during the fall of 2009 to put in temporary shoulders, both east and westbound will be open to traffic for the duration of the project. Lane shifts have moved traffic away from the work zone activities and the speed limit has been reduced to 45 mph.

“Right now, the lanes have been narrowed to 11 feet, both eastbound and westbound,” stated Schaffer. “In the spring of 2011, we’ll have to reduce it to one lane to complete the tie-in of the ramps to I-80.”

With everything on schedule, the project is expected to be complete by July 2011. CEG

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