Route 6 Bottleneck Uncorked in Dickson City and Blakely, PA

Story by Matthew Phair | September 28, 2010

Route 6 runs across nearly the entire United States, and at one point in the 1970s it was the longest highway in the United States. While that has since changed thanks to a California road renumbering effort, for daily commuters traveling it in Northeast Pennsylvania, it might as well still be the longest. While development has continued along this busy road running through former hard-coal country, an over mile-long bottleneck in Dickson City and Blakely has been choking off traffic.

Relief is in sight, however, as the estimated $11-million bridge replacement and widening project along Business Route 6 at the junction with PA Route 347 in Dickson City and Blakely boroughs approaches its October 2007 completion date. The roadway is being widened to five lanes (two lanes in each direction with a center turning lane). Work also includes realigning the intersection, traffic signals, signs, guide rail, pavement markings, and drainage improvements. Both sides of the three-lane job site are being widened and paved.

Performing virtually all of the contracting work is Honesdale, Pa.-based Leeward Construction. Led by Project Manager Pat Resti, the firm has continually staffed the project with upwards of 25 workers at a time. Anthony Shubzda, PennDOT project manager, has overseen the project for the state. Borton-Lawson of Wilkes-Barres acted as design consultant on the project.

To uncork the Route 6 bottleneck, Leeward has had to re-route a creek; widen, cut and reshape hillsides; and construct a 230-foot retaining wall; build a five-lane bridge; and add two full curbed and drained lanes to a busy three-lane highway. So far, roughly 80,000 cubic yards of the eventual 130,000 cubic yards of earth have been moved.

Part of the widening project has included eliminating a traffic-lit intersection, creating an off-ramp from Route 6 and creating a new intersection is the creek valley. To support the existing five-lane approach to the new bridge, Leeward also installed a 275-foot-long Mechanically Stabilized Earth retaining wall. Reinforced Earth designed the wall and supplied the components, and the wall was backfilled with open-graded stone. At its highest point, the wall is 36 feet high.

Managing the creek's water flow during construction has been a continual challenge for the project crew. After stabilizing the valley walls with grass mats and creek bed with stone, Leeward's first challenge was moving the massive amounts of dirt on the project from one side of the creek to the other side. Rather than forcing the trucks into highway traffic, the contractor built a haul road over the creek. A temporary three-pipe system allowed the water to continue flowing as earth was moved.

To tackle installing the massive 240-foot-long permanent culvert installation needed to flow the creek under the new off-ramp and intersection, Leeward first had to route the entire creek away from the culvert location. Trenching deep into the side of the sloping hill, the contractor installed a 60-inch culvert to route the entire stream around the culvert construction site.

Subcontractor Marikina Construction of Orwigsburg, Pa., set the precast elements and the concrete culvert elements.

To create the Dickson City bridge, Borton-Lawson designed a three-span structure consisting of spread and box beams with a poured deck finish. The first and third spans were spread box beams; the center span were adjacent box beams. The new deck is going to be about 64 feet wide nearly double of the former 35-foot-wide space under the bridge. Poured concrete piers and abutments will replace the old stone abutments.

According to Shubzda, shoring played a key role in the project, as it was needed for both the MSE wall and the bridge. While steel sheet piles were first driven a vibratory hammer, after 30 feet to 40 feet the soil provided too much resistant. Ultimately Leeward turned to an impact hammer to get the job done.

As of press time, traffic is slated to be rerouted by February 17 onto the completed two-lane deck of the bridge and on north side of the highway. The project is slated to be completed in October.

About Leeward

Leeward Construction specializes in utility, highway, heavy, and building site construction. In addition, it also owns and operates rock quarries and asphalt plants. Started by Paul Weeks and Eric Linde after their collaborative work on the U.S. Navy Base in Antigua, West Indies (part of the Leeward Islands), Leeward Construction opened for business in January of 1993. During the first three years, Leeward completed nearly $1 million in construction work. Since 1996, the company has increased its operating area and work load and has grown to complete more than $20 million annually. The firm is currently a key contractor on the $360-million Mt. Airy Hotel and Casino project in the nearby Poconos.