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Route 22 Project Under Way After 40 Years of Planning

Wed February 08, 2006 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

Environmental and historic issues are at the forefront of a road reconstruction project currently under way near Lewistown, PA. After 40 years in the planning stages, the road is finally becoming a reality, and is scheduled for completion by fall 2008.

The contract called for the construction of a 6.65-mi. (10.7 km), four-lane limited access highway through a narrow river valley while maintaining traffic for an arterial highway link in Central Pennsylvania.

“The detour route for this project is 55 miles long,” said Joseph Walter, project manager of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). “The project area has been planned for approximately 40 years, with delays encountered due to funding, environmental considerations, and geotechnical design requirements.”

The original contract amount was $104 million — one of the largest in the history of the state. It was awarded to Walsh Construction, of Illinois. Funding is 20 percent state highway construction funds and 80 percent federal Appalachian funds. Notice to proceed was given on Feb. 11, 2004, and the project is currently on schedule for completion by Sept. 29, 2008.

The project is the third and final section of a 10-mi. (16 km) long reconstruction of Lewistown Narrows, which involves Route 22/322 in Mifflin and Juniata counties. According to the PennDOT Web site, the project is “not one of the longest reconstructions in terms of mileage. But, it is one of the most complex to design and build because of the geology and the lack of a reasonable detour. For more than three decades engineers have studied ways to build a modern highway through the Lewistown Narrows.”

Micropiles and rock buttress construction methods are being used on the project — a result of analysis that included approximately 40,000 core drillings, seismic refraction and ground penetrating radar.

“Access to the project is limited due to a talus slope on the north side and an environmentally-sensitive river [Juniata Branch of the Susquehanna] on the south,” said Walter. “Geotechnical design analysis required remediation of forces associated with a talus slope to prevent structural failure of the slopes and retaining walls.”

In addition, maintenance and protection of traffic is a priority for the east-west highway that links the Harrisburg and Pittsburgh regions of Pennsylvania. The average daily traffic is currently 20,054, with 17 percent being trucks.

Historic concerns also are being addressed.

“A portion of a former canal system lock and lockkeeper’s house is being restored to satisfy commitments to the PA Historic and Museum Commission,” Walter noted.

In addition, this section includes the construction of Pennsylvania Canal Park, with a visitor’s center and picnic area, as well as a fishing and boating access area to the Juniata River. This area is designed to enhance the recreational use of the river.

Once complete, the highway will have two 12-ft. (3.6 m) wide lanes in each direction with 10-ft. (3 m) outside concrete shoulders. In addition, PennDOT noted that part of the highway will be bifurcated, with the two westbound lanes generally elevated above the eastbound (riverside) lanes.

Walter reported that the project involves approximately 1.8 million cu. yds. (1.4 million cu m) of excavation, 229,000 ft. (69,799 m) of 7-in. (17.8 cm) diameter slope stability micropiles, 70,000 ft. (21,336 m) of H-piles, 8,100 ft. (2,469 m) of RC retaining walls, 176,000 sq. yds. (147.158 sq m) of 12-in. (30.5 cm) Pl Cem concrete pavement, and 103,000 sq. yds. (86,121 sq m) of concrete shoulders.

The project involves nine reinforced concrete retaining walls totaling 8,280 ft. (2,524 m) and two mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls totaling 14,820 ft. (4,517 m). One of the walls exceeds two miles in length. In addition, 40,000 ft. (12,192 m) of H-piles will be driven for wall and bridge foundations. Two bridges will be constructed over Macedonia Run, one totaling 55 ft. (16.7 m) and one 290 ft. (88.4 m).

Workers on the job include approximately 80 craft (union) people and 12 salaried employees.

Major subcontractors include Bruce and Merilles Electric Co., electrical; Eastern Steel Constructors Inc., furnish and install rebar; Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., asphalt; Green Acres Contracting Co. Inc., guardrail, fence, and landscaping; Independence Recycling Inc., aggregate crushing; Wampum Hardware Co., blasting; Indian Contracting Company, furnish and install box culverts, I-beams, and box beams; Hiram Wible & Son Inc., trucking; and Strongstown’s B & K Enterprise, concrete barrier.

Major equipment for the job includes a Hitachi EX1200 backhoe, eight Volvo A40Ds, a Link-Belt 218 Hylab5, a Link-Belt LS108H II, an ABI Mobileram TM 14/16 B micropile drill, an IMT AF 180M micropile drill, and a BANUT superram 6000 H-pile rig.

Other sections of the Narrows Project include the Arch Rock interchange in Juniata County and the Route 22/322 interchange with Business Route 22 in Mifflin County. The first section was built by Glenn O. Hawbaker, State College, at a cost of $12.7 million. It opened to traffic in the fall of 2003. Work on the second section began in March 2003, and is scheduled to be complete by the fall of 2005. The $17.7-million section is being built by Dick Corporation of Pittsburgh. CEG

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