After many years of discussion, an ambitious project to ease congestion in Pennsylvania’s densely populated Bucks and Montgomery counties is finally under way with construction of a long-awaited parkway.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has estimated that by 2020 the new highway will be traveled by between 23,700 and 28,300 vehicles daily
Certain changes, however, had to be made before ground could be broken for the project.
According to PennDOT, the parkway had initially been planned as an expressway with limited access. However, in March 2004, the department realized its projected revenues would not provide enough funding for all its proposed projects and this particular job was among those re-evaluated. As a result, a parkway was ultimately chosen as an appropriate solution for improving travel conditions in the area while remaining within the limitations imposed by available funds.
Groundbreaking for the Route 202 parkway took place on Nov. 21, 2008, at a ceremony attended by State Transportation Secretary Allen D. Biehler, and state and local officials. In his remarks, Biehler observed that the day highlighted the start of construction of a specially designed highway that would not only ease congestion on the much traveled corridor but would also blend in with local communities.
The 8.4 mi. (13.5 km) long parkway will be built in three stages:
• Route 63 (Welsh Road) in Upper and Lower Gwynedd Townships to Route 463 (Horsham Road) in Montgomery Township, all in Montgomery County;
• Route 463 to Pickertown Road in Montgomery Township, Montgomery County, and Warrington Township, Bucks County; and
• Pickertown Road to the Route 611 interchange in Warrington and Doylestown Townships, Bucks County.
The entire project has a completion date of 2011 and carries a price tag of $200 million. This sum covers design, right of way acquisition, and construction costs, all of which will be paid by state funding.
J. D. Eckman Inc., of Atglen, Pa., is general contractor for the first section of the parkway, which carries a $31.7 million price tag.
Construction of this initial stretch involves the four-lane 1.8-mi. (2.9 km) long section between routes 63 and 463. However, the parkway from the latter point to the Route 611 interchange in Doylestown will be a two-lane highway.
In addition to 5 ft. (1.5 m) wide paved shoulder/bicycle lanes there will be 3 ft. (.9 m) wide stabilized shoulders for breakdown and emergency access. The parkway also will feature nine signalized intersections, 11 new bridges, and approximately 3,100 linear ft. (944.9 m) of retaining walls designed to minimize impact on streams, wetlands, and rights of way as well as more than 14,000 linear ft. (4,267 m) of landscaped berms and median islands.
In early July, Tom Kinsman, project manager of J. D. Eckman Inc., described progress on the parkway.
“We began work in late 2008 and have now completed major earthwork and site preparation, including sediment control, clearing and grubbing, as well as a precast arch culvert,” he said. “We’ve also poured concrete for the footer of the first of two bridges. This particular bridge will cross the very busy Route 309.
“We have 20 major pieces of equipment at work, including Volvo 30-ton dump trucks. There are Caterpillar 330 and 345 excavators, D6 and D8 dozers, 963 track loaders and 420 backhoes, as well as John Deere 550 and 650 dozers. The excavators and dozers are fitted with Topcon’s GPS control systems, and our grade foreman is using a hand-held Topcon rover. We also have a Grove 60-ton crane and a 100-ton P&H crawler crane at work,” he added.
Overall approximately 40 workers are on site, 30 of Eckman’s employees and five to 10 from subcontractors who are or will be dealing with clearing, grubbing and landscaping and also will install signs, guiderail, and fence and paint traffic lines.
“Work still to be completed includes building the two bridges and four retaining walls and there is a significant amount of drainage pipe and other finishing work to be done. Work has progressed well despite a very wet spring and early summer, including rainy conditions during June, and we are on schedule for completion at the end of December 2010,” Kinsman said.
When completed, there will be significant landscaping and aesthetic architectural treatment of the bridges to enhance their appearance.
“Local task force and community input was involved and played a key role in the design of the parkway,” said Eugene J. Blaum, assistant press secretary of PennDOT Engineering Region 6. “This special treatment allows the parkway to blend in with its locale. There will also be a multi-use trail along the entire length of the project, as well as special fencing.”
The trail will be provided with trailhead parking areas at intervals.
“We are very pleased with Eckman’s progress on this job and very excited about this new roadway, which has been under discussion for several decades. It will enhance travel and reduce congestion along this portion of the Route 202 Corridor in Bucks and Montgomery counties,” Blaum said.
PennDOT also has a $2.7 million project under way to construct 9.3 acres (3.8 ha) of new wetlands along both sides of the Little Neshaminy Creek near the intersection of County Line Road and Kansas Road in Warrington Township, Bucks County, in connection with the parkway. Not only were there existing wetlands at these locations, but there also was land available for creating new ones. This part of the project began in December 2008.
More than 20,000 cu. yds. (15,291 cu m) of soil have already been removed from this site, and a temporary crossing point built to avoid construction traffic impacting nearby communities as much as possible. The stone and geotextile crossing point features eight pipes maintaining water flow. Both the crossing point and the construction mats in various sensitive areas were removed in June. Berms will assist the wetlands to retain water.
Equipment in use at the wetlands site includes a Komatsu crawler dozer and a Komatsu crawler mounted hydraulic excavator as well as a Hamm single-drum vibratory compactor and a John Deere 9520 scraper special tractor with a Rhino 119 disc/harrow.
As part of these measures, 26 groundwater monitoring wells and several weirs were installed to regulate water levels. Six new culverts over Little Neshaminy Creek tributaries also are planned, as well as the extension of an existing Route 309 box culvert
In addition, PennDOT will be placing more than 13,000 plants at the mitigation site and will continue to monitor the wetlands for five years after the entire project is completed.
The remaining two phases of the parkway are expected to get under way this year. CEG
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