Montgomery Co - Reconstruction and Widening Project on PA Turnpike NE Extension
Work began on a major Pennsylvania Turnpike construction project to improve the busiest section of the Northeastern Extension.
Officials broke ground on the $151 million endeavor to completely rebuild a six-mile section of the toll road including the construction of one additional lane in each direction. Preliminary work on the project is expected to commence March 6, weather permitting.
The improvements are focused on the southernmost stretch of the Northeastern Extension, Interstate 476, in Montgomery County, just north of the Mid-County Interchange (#20). Work on this massive reconstruction and six-lane widening project is expected to last nearly three years until its anticipated completion in late 2013.
Pennsylvania Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Craig Shuey, Chief Engineer Frank Kempf, Turnpike Vice Chairman A. Michael Pratt and Turnpike Commissioner Pat Deon joined state legislators, local leaders and project consultants in breaking ground at a site adjacent to the Turnpike's northbound lanes where Route 202 crosses over the Northeastern Extension in Whitpain Township.
"This stretch of I-476 between Mid-County and the Lansdale Interchange is the busiest four-lane section of highway across the entire Turnpike system, with average traffic exceeding 65,500 vehicles per day," COO Shuey said. "What's more, traffic volumes here are expected to surpass 100,000 vehicles per day by the year 2030, so this improvement project is vitally needed to safely accommodate rising traffic."
Turnpike leaders were joined by State Rep. Kate Harper, State Rep. Matthew D. Bradford and county and township officials to celebrate the start of construction in the work area which begins just beyond the Mid-County Interchange at milepost A20.3 and continues northward, terminating near where Berks Road crosses the Turnpike at milepost A25.7. The work zone encompasses Plymouth, Whitpain and Worcester townships.
"This project is also significant because it represents the first total-reconstruction initiative undertaken on the Northeastern Extension since it opened more than 56 years ago on Nov. 23, 1955," Shuey added. "But we're not stopping here. Once we've completed this project, we'll begin a similar reconstruction and widening of the Turnpike to the north, from Berks Road to the Lansdale Interchange."
Scheduled to begin in 2014, the northern portion - which includes four and a half miles of toll road - is expected to be completed in late 2016. The projects are part of a statewide initiative to rebuild the Turnpike from the ground up. To date, the Turnpike has rebuilt about 73 miles of roadway, most of it widened to six lanes.
Throughout the three-year A20-A26 project, the Turnpike will take steps to ensure that traffic disruptions and delays are kept to a minimum. Four lanes will be available most of the time, with single-lane closures limited to off-peak hours only. In later phases, the contractor will need to implement intermittent stoppages or detours in some cases, but such work is restricted to off-peak hours and early Sunday mornings.
Full-depth reconstruction involves removing all original pavement and sub-base and replacing it with an entirely new roadway with gentler curves and grades. The existing, four-lane highway will be replaced with a six-lane highway with 12-foot-wide shoulders to the left and right of travel lanes. (By comparison, the current roadway has a 1-foot left shoulder and a right shoulder width of 8 to 10 feet.) All other facets of the highway will be replaced, including lighting, barriers and guide rail, noise and retention walls and drainage systems.
Early construction activities next week will include installation of temporary concrete barrier along the right shoulder. Once the barrier is placed over the next three to four weeks, crews will then work outside that barrier to construct what will eventually become the new right lane and shoulder. Once finished, the contractor will shift traffic out onto the newly built right lane and shoulder and begin to excavate and replace the existing travel lanes and median.
The contractor will widen and replace the seven mainline bridges where the Northeastern Extension crosses over Hickory Road, Township Line Road, Jolly Road, Wentz Road, Skippack Pike, a SEPTA line and North Wales Road. No detours will be needed on local underpasses but occasional single-lane patterns may be necessary during overhead work. (To accommodate the widening, three overhead bridges that carry Bethel Road, Walton Road and DeKalb Pike were replaced between 2008 and 2010.)
The project - funded wholly by toll revenues without any state or federal tax dollars - is being built by Walsh Construction Co. of Canonsburg, Pa. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission awarded the $151 million contract to Walsh on Dec. 21, 2010.