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Slew of Challenges Highlight Key Wilkes-Barre Route Project

Fri December 30, 2011 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed

Rehabilitation work continues on a 4,200-ft. (1,280 m) long stretch of well traveled Coal Street, one of the main routes into Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Running from the intersection of Coal Street with State Route 309 (Business Route 309) to Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, the $11.7 million job will realign and widen Coal Street from North Grant Street to Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, which links to a business district and the Wyoming Valley Mall.

Eighty percent of the project is covered by federal funding and the remaining 20 percent by the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority. Currently, a two-lane highway, Coal Street will eventually feature five 10-ft. (3 m) wide traffic lanes and new sidewalks between 8 and 12 ft. (2.4 and 3.6 m) wide.

Pennsy Supply Inc, of Pittston, Pa., is prime contractor for the PennDOT project, which is scheduled for completion by the end of 2012. Notice to proceed was given in July 2010, and work began in September 2010.

By this past July, the job was within sight of its halfway mark. At that point, new roadway had been constructed on the southern side of Coal Street from Empire Court to Business Route 309 and detention basin work had been largely carried out, its completion awaiting sanitary sewer relocation. Coal Street’s realignment had reached subgrade excavation stage and utility relocation had begun. The new stormwater system was in place under Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, with crews installing the system from the Boulevard to Coal Street Park.

“More than two miles of new storm drainage pipe is being installed, using a John Deere 350DLC excavator assisted by a Cat IT-28G loader. Pipe installation in tight clearance areas has been made possible by using a Volvo EW180C rubber-tire excavator,” said Andy Nowak, vice president of construction at Pennsy Supply.

“A Grove RT650E crane has been instrumental in setting some of the larger precast concrete drainage structures. Additional excavation was required to expand the size of the current stormwater retention basin near Wilkes-Barre Boulevard,” he added. “The basin excavation was completed using a John Deere 450 excavator and Cat D6 dozers. Asphalt paving for the new roadway base has been completed in some of the road widening areas, using a Vogele 5203 paver. Minimal building demolition work has been required, mainly the removal of three apartment units at the Interfaith Apartments complex, to accommodate the lane widening.”

The project also involves construction of two mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) retaining walls to separate the widened roadway from the apartment complex. According to Nowak, these retaining walls include metallic reinforcement to ensure stabilization of the soil mass and have a discreet modular precast concrete facing. The walls also help create a protected pedestrian walkway.

The rehabilitation of Coal Street presented Pennsy Supply with one or two difficulties to be resolved.

“As with many urban projects, there have been numerous underground utility issues, with some older, unknown utility locations. This has required some hand-dug test pits to locate lines. The local utility companies have had crews on standby to assist with relocating lines when they are exposed,” Nowak said.

“The amount of traffic on this street, necessitating the expansion from two lanes to five, has made for quite a challenge for the crews to complete the work while still allowing for two-way traffic. Additional flagpersons have been employed at all the work locations and cross-streets to provide for minimal traffic disruptions,” he added.

In addition, there were concerns from local residents about the amount of parking spaces available when the project was completed. As a result, PennDOT and Wilkes-Barre city officials revised some of the planned layout of the travel lanes. These changes will now allow for more parking spaces along the route than existed before the project began. City of Wilkes-Barre Director of Operations Butch Frati has been instrumental in helping the work progress, by maintaining constant contact with Pennsy and PennDOT and quickly responding to issues and changes as necessary, Nowak said.

At the peak of the construction season, 20 Pennsy Supply employees, along with as many as 10 subcontractor employees, have been working on site at any one time.

Among the major subcontractors working on the project are Northeast Signal & Electric, of Nicholson, Pa., which is completing the traffic signal and street lighting work; Green Valley Landscaping of Plains, Pa., subcontractor for planting and landscaping; Interstate Road Management of Hazleton, Pa., responsible for all pavement striping and markings; and Fehlinger Construction of Shavertown, Pa., assisting with the sanitary sewer relocation work.

“With the closing of the current asphalt paving season, work scheduled to continue through the winter includes the stormwater drainage system improvements and traffic signal installations,” Pennsy’s Nowak said. “In the spring, work will resume installing new granite curbing and concrete sidewalks, as well as continuing on the new asphalt pavement base and surface courses.”

About Pennsy Supply

Pennsy Supply Inc. is among the leading suppliers of aggregate, asphalt, concrete and paving services throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware. It includes McMinn’s Asphalt of Lancaster, Pa., and Pioneer Materials of Cochranville, Pa. Together, the Pennsy Supply companies account for approximately $500 million in annual revenue; more than 1,600 employees; and operate 17 aggregate quarries, four sand and gravel operations, 14 ready-mix concrete plants, 20 asphalt plants, two block plants, and four rail stone depots across Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.

Pennsy Supply Inc., is part of Oldcastle Materials, the leading vertically integrated supplier of aggregate, asphalt, ready-mix concrete, and paving services in the United States and one of four divisions of CRH plc, the international building materials group.

Pennsy Supply Inc. has completed numerous projects in northeast Pennsylvania for the PennDOT, including the $21 million Davis Street Interchange project near Scranton, the $15 million I-80 Improvement project in Monroe County, and the $7 million Route 924 Widening project near Hazleton.

Current projects of note include the Broad Street Corridor Improvement project in Hazleton, Pa., which includes street reconstruction, drainage, and signal improvements, with a contract value of $27.4 million, and the $17 million I-84 & I-380 Resurfacing project in Lackawanna and Wayne Counties.

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