PennDOT District 6-0 Projects Under Way

By Christina Fisher. | September 28, 2010

In southeastern Pennsylvania, PennDOT's District 6-0 builds and maintains the region's transportation infrastructure that includes 3,600 miles of state highway and 2,800 bridges. The district has several projects currently under construction.

Rehabilitation Of Interstate 76 Bridges

Work began in March 2008 on I-76 (Schuylkill Expressway) near the University Avenue Interchange in Philadelphia on a 19-month project to rehabilitate and repair two bridges carrying more than a half-mile of the expressway over the Schuylkill River, Grays Ferry Avenue and 34th Street. I-76 carries 129,000 vehicles a day in the area of the University Avenue Interchange.

The Schuylkill River Bridge is a nine-span non-redundant steel through-girder structure totaling 1,750 feet, and the Grays Ferry Avenue Viaduct is a 16-span steel multi-girder structure totaling 1,630 feet. The combined structure length is 3,380 feet. Both bridges are 64 feet wide and carry two lanes of eastbound and westbound traffic. Built in the mid-1950s, the bridges have been in serious need of attention due to their deteriorated conditions.

The superstructures (bridge deck, steel beams and related structural components that support the roadway) on both bridges are in poor condition. The steel beams are in need of repair and painting; the concrete decks need resurfacing; and the protective concrete barriers (parapets) and the concrete median barrier are in need of replacement. The I-76 Bridge over the Schuylkill River is structurally deficient due to the condition of the superstructure. It has a sufficiency rating of 36. (The sufficiency rating is a composite number on a scale from 0 to 100 — with 0 being worst and 100 being best. It notes a bridge's overall capability.) The I-76 Bridge over Grays Ferry Avenue is not structurally deficient; however, it has a sufficiency rating of 49. Buckley and Company of Philadelphia is the general contractor on the $23,949,427 project that is financed with 90-percent federal and 10-percent state funds. The scope of Buckley's work includes:

  • Repairing steel beams and bearings;
  • Sandblasting and painting steel beams;
  • Replacing portions of the concrete deck;
  • Grinding off 1 inch of the deteriorated concrete riding surface and resurfacing the bridge decks with 1 inch of new latex concrete;
  • Removing protective barriers on the sides of the bridges and replacing with conventional concrete safety barriers;
  • Removing and replacing the concrete median barrier; and
  • Replacing expansion joints.

According to Harold Windisch, P.E., senior assistant construction engineer with PennDOT, "Where there's section loss we're actually removing (the steel), whether it be stringers or diaphragms, and replacing it. This bridge is non-composite. Where we're replacing the stringers we're adding sheer studs. This basically makes the deck integral with the beams and gives additional strength to the overall structure.

"With the structural steel repairs ... after we blast an area, it actually helps us to see a lot more — additional steel members that need to be replaced. We're doing that.

"It's a four-stage construction on top. In Stage 2 we moved a parapet. We've actually removed a section of the deck and sandblasted the girder and replaced the steel as needed."

In addition to the high traffic volumes through the project site, Buckley also has to coordinate its construction schedule around sporting events or any events in Philadelphia where high traffic is possible.

"With the traffic, it makes it more challenging. Everything on the project is accelerated, and it's demanding on the contractors," Windisch points out. "It's a two-year job but with a lot of work."

The project is scheduled for completion in November 2009.

Pennsylvania Route 309 Project Overview

With an estimated traffic count of 53,500 vehicles a day, the 10-mile Route 309 corridor in Montgomery County, which was originally built in the 1950s, has been in need of reconstruction and rehabilitation.

"(The expressway) met the design criteria for that timeframe; however, these criteria have changed over the past 50 years," says Brian Early, senior civil engineer manager with PennDOT. "The acceleration/deceleration lanes weren't up to speed for what we need today. We had a couple of stop conditions for on-ramps that caused backups. Basically the objective for the entire corridor was to improve safety and make it more efficient."

The estimated $350-million project to reconstruct and improve the expressway between Cheltenham Avenue and State Route 63 (Welsh Road) in Montgomery County is comprised of five separate main line contracts. In advance of the work on Route 309, 31 nearby intersections have been improved to handle extra traffic expected to divert from Route 309 during reconstruction. Those contracts are known as Phase 1.

Construction of the main line on Route 309 has been broken down into five major phases, or construction sections. In sequential completion order they are: Phase 2 (Sec. 110), Phase 3 (Sec. 100), Phase 4 (Sec. 103), Phase 5 (Sec. 102), Phase 6 (Sec. 101), and Sec. 104, which is the installation of the ITS system for the corridor. The first stage of work on Phase 2 (Sec. 110), the main-line expressway, was the replacement of two bridges — Summit Avenue and the Pennsylvania Turnpike — over Route 309.

Phase 3 (Sec. 100)

Location: Route 309 Expressway, Route 73 (Church Road) to Highland Avenue — approximately 3 miles

Schedule: March 2004 to fall 2007

Cost: $57.9 million

Project Team: Alan A. Myers, LP, Worcester, PA (general contractor); Urban Engineers, Inc., Philadelphia (construction management); Gannett Fleming, Inc., Audubon, PA (design consultants); Madeleine C. Fausto (PennDOT design project manager on all projects).

Project Description:

  • Total reconstruction of four lane expressway;
  • Lengthen ramps at Route 73 (Church Road) Interchange, Highland Avenue;
  • Reconstruct Fort Washington and Madison avenue bridges over Route 309;
  • Construct retaining walls;
  • Modify drainage; and
  • Construct noise walls at northbound Route 73 (Church Road) to Valley Green Road, and southbound at Route 73 (Church Road) ramps.

Phase 4 (Sec. 103)

Location: Fort Washington Interchange

Schedule: January 2005 to November 2008

Cost: $82.6 million

Project Team: James D. Morrissey/Nyleve Bridge Corp. JV (general contractors); Urban Engineers, Inc., Philadelphia (construction management); Gannett Fleming, Inc., Audubon, PA (design consultants).

Project Description: Construction and reconfiguration of ramps and structures for the new interchange at Fort Washington. Work included construction of new acceleration/deceleration lanes, as well as a new northbound collector/distributor road. Total roadway width in the interchange area will increase from four lanes to five lanes.

Early points out that the Fort Washington Interchange was reconstructed to help with traffic flow and to move traffic easily onto and off the Pennsylvania Turnpike. "If you wanted to get onto 309 going south, you had to come up and around on an on-ramp to a stop condition — then merge with traffic going 55-plus mph. We're eliminating this stop condition and making it a longer ramp for acceleration and easier weave movement."

This phase of the project also included construction of a seven-span flyover ramp for Route 309 south to the turnpike and the reconstruction of a Norfolk Southern bridge.

Phase 5 (Sec. 102)

Location: Route 309 Expressway, Cheltenham Avenue to Route 73

Schedule: Spring 2005 to fall 2008

Cost: $88.3 million

Project Team: Buckley/Glasgow Joint Venture (general contractors); Urban Engineers, Inc., Philadelphia (construction management); KCI Technologies, Inc., Mechanicsburg, PA (design consultants).

Project Description:

  • Total reconstruction of four lane expressway;
  • Reconstruct Interchange at Route 152 (Easton Road) to a modified diamond interchange;
  • Lengthen ramps at Paper Mill Road Interchange;
  • Construct retaining walls and modify drainage;
  • Rehabilitate and widen three bridges;
  • Construct one new overpass and replace one overpass;
  • Construct noise walls southbound from Paper Mill Road to Route 73 (Church Road) and Willow Grove Avenue to Waverly Road, and northbound from Willow Grove Avenue to Paper Mill Road; and
  • Reconstruct a pedestrian tunnel under Rt. 309.

Phase 6 (Sec. 101)

Location: Route 309 Expressway, Highland Avenue to Welsh Road/PA 63

Schedule: Bid in May 2007 with an expected completion date of May 2010.

Cost: $102.5 million

Project Team: James D. Morrissey/Nyleve Bridge Corp. JV (general contractors); Urban Engineers, Inc., Philadelphia (construction management); DMJM Harris, Philadelphia (design consultants).

Project Description:

  • Total reconstruction of four lane expressway;
  • Lengthen ramps at Susquehanna Road, Norristown Road, But ler Pike;
  • Construct retaining walls;
  • Modify drainage;
  • Rehabilitate and widen seven bridges;
  • Reconstruct one bridge; and
  • Construct a noise wall southbound from Norristown Road to Butler Pike.

Maintaining traffic throughout the project has been a challenge. Early points out that there were times when the contractors could go down to a single lane, but this has been the exception. Two lanes of traffic have been maintained throughout most of the project, and 5-10 percent of the work, such as setting beams or paving operations, has been done at night.

There are approximately 70 bridges, culverts and retaining walls along the 309 corridor. The retaining walls were constructed using a combination of "T" walls, MSE walls and cast-in place construction.

David Warner, vice president of construction with Buckley & Company, explains that the culvert extensions proved to be challenging because of their depth. Working from above, a large crane was used to lower smaller pieces of equipment into the culvert. Soil nailing as well as conventional soldier beams and lagging were used for excavation support.

Brian Early points out that the corridor is going to 12-foot lanes with an additional 12-foot shoulder on the outside, and a 4-foot shoulder on the inside. However, this is not intended to increase capacity, "just to increase safety and efficiency."

U.S. Route 202 — Section 300 Reconstruction Project

U.S. Route 202 in Pennsylvania is a 59-mile-long highway that connects New Jersey to the north with Delaware to the south, and serves as a major commuter route and vital link for business and industry in the tri-state region. The highway varies in size from a two-lane road to a four-lane expressway, with traffic volumes ranging from 17,000 to 105,000 vehicles a day. Section 300 is the part of U.S. 202 that runs through Chester County.

PennDOT is using significant federal and state transportation funding for the Section 300 project, most of which is collected at the fuel pump and through licensing fees. The entire scope of the project includes:

  • Reconstructing Route 202's four existing travel lanes;
  • Adding a third travel lane in each direction using the existing grass median;
  • Rebuilding seven overpasses to provide additional horizontal and vertical clearance;
  • Constructing a two-lane collector-distributor (C-D) roadway along northbound Route 202 at the Route 29/Great Valley Interchange to eliminate conflicts between ramp traffic and through traffic;
  • Improving the Route 401/Frazer Interchange and installing new traffic signals;
  • Installing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) components, including highway cams and electronic message signs;
  • Improving the expressway's storm water management system; and
  • Erecting sound walls at eligible locations.

Due to the large size of this project, Section 300 improvements will be completed under four separate contracts: Section 310, Section 311, Section 320, and Section 330.

This project consists of three preliminary projects, the first of which has been a $14-million project to install an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS). This preliminary project began in May 2005 and was completed in the fall of 2007. Unlike the 309 corridor project where the ITS system will be installed at the end of the project, the ITS was installed first on Section 300 to help with traffic management when construction begins on the main line sections.

The second and third preliminary projects — Section 310 and Section 311— have involved reconstructing and widening seven bridges over 202 and completing improvements to two intersections. These preliminary projects must be completed before work can begin to widen and rebuild the main line expressway.

Section 310 ($18 million) began in February 2007 and involved reconstructing and widening three bridges over Route 202 and improving two off-site intersections. Work was completed in fall 2008.

According to Steve Laws, senior assistant construction engineer with PennDOT, there has been a lot of environmental work on the 310 project. "We had a big wetland creation site and stream — Ecology Park and Valley Creek, which is an exceptional value stream through the project. It's been very challenging because of all the environmental work involved."

Two of the three bridges in Section 310 are on pilings. "Because it's limestone, the depths vary," says Early. "We've had piling from almost 200 feet deep to 20 feet deep in the same substructure elements. The pilings went deeper than anticipated in several spots. It's very variable. That's been a scheduling challenge also."

Section 311 is a $23.5-million project involving the replacement or modification of four bridges over 202. Work began in January 2008 and is scheduled for completion in May 2010. Two of the bridges are being constructed in stages to maintain traffic, and a third is on a new alignment so that traffic can stay on the existing bridge during construction. The fourth structure is a former railroad bridge that will now be a part of the Chester Valley Trail, a walking and biking trail. Work has not started on this bridge yet.

At the Morehall/Rt. 29 bridge on Section 311, utilities proved to be the challenge. "There are Verizon ducts on the existing bridge that could not be taken out due to numerous high-profile customers in that area," explains Laws. "Verizon developed a design for a rather large truss to support their line while the existing bridge was demolished and the new bridge was constructed."

Trevor Harper, project manager with Road-Con, Inc., came up with a solution that sped up this process and saved money.

"Basically what we tried to do was use portions of the old structure and then modified the demolition plan," says Harper. "We used the prestressed beams, and I came up with a tube system to support the Verizon duct bank. Then we had several truss pieces in our yard that we modified to use to support the system. It created a couple of more steps, but it made our life a lot easier in the phased construction across the bridge."

Sections 320 and 330 involve the main line widening and reconstruction of 202, and are currently scheduled for 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Editor's note: For more information on these projects, visit, and