More Than One Way

Jan. 1, 2006

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” wrote the 18th century poet Robert Burns in his poem “To a Mouse.” Fortunately, there are well-planned construction projects that never go awry, or if they do most are ultimately put back on schedule. It is true for many PennDOT road projects, but certainly not all of them.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” wrote the 18th century poet Robert Burns in his poem “To a Mouse.” Fortunately, there are well-planned construction projects that never go awry, or if they do most are ultimately put back on schedule. It is true for many PennDOT road projects, but certainly not all of them.

One that has not been faring so well is the road-section construction project S.R. 3010, Section 004 (Paxton Street, Harrisburg, Pa.). It calls for this 3,900-ft-long section to be converted from a one-way to a two-way street. All other sections of Paxton Street are already two way. The construction project further calls for widening the street by an additional 30 ft for adding a third lane and wider shoulders.

The third lane, which will be a middle lane, is included to avoid traffic jams created by left-turning traffic that access businesses lining the street. When the section was a one-way street, this was not a problem.

Businesses found on Paxton Street include commercial and professional buildings, retail stores, a large shopping mall and a new 102-acre commercial park. The park is currently under development by Crossgates Inc., Harrisburg, and Computer Aid, Allentown.

When the owner completes constructing the park, it will feature campus-style offices and light-manufacturing facilities for accommodating up to 4,000 employees. Named the TecPort Business Center, it will encompass 800,000 sq ft of buildings, including retail stores and restaurants.

Fortunately, the TecPort construction activities are not causing major delays for the PennDOT project, despite incoming and outgoing traffic from the construction workers and delivery trucks. All potential delays have been avoided by PennDOT (also its contractor) and Crossgates by having periodic meetings to coordinate the two projects’ activities, thus minimizing any conflicts.

The contract price is just over $4 million which was awarded to the successful low bidder, J.D. Eckman Inc. of Atglen, Pa. Last year, Eckman completed a smaller but similar PennDOT construction project, which adjoins the new project on Paxton Street for $1.1 million.

Major delays

Originally, the project was to be completed by Jan. 6, 2006, but now, according to Randy Stoudt, P.E., project manager for PennDOT, it is projected that the completion date will be sometime in early summer 2006. Stoudt explained, “There were two major unforeseen problems encountered that prevented us from keeping the project on schedule. The first was the construction of a new storm sewer along the north side of the roadway. It was to be completed prior to the scheduled start of PennDOT’s road project, but unfortunately there were complications delaying that project. The other problem encountered was a severe rainy weather system during the months of September and October. With these major construction delays encountered, we ran into the end of the PennDOT finish-paving season. PennDOT does not allow paving the binder or wear course after Oct. 15 because of probable freezing weather.”

The first major construction delay transpired during the late spring to early summer period when the activities of the utilities contractor and road contractor met with an impasse. The road project was brought to a complete stop because the utilities contractor was excavating and installing the storm sewer line along the north lane. Concurrently, the road contractor could have worked on the south lane, but this would have necessitated closing both lanes to through traffic. That, of course, was not acceptable to PennDOT, so Eckman ceased most construction activities.

Stoudt said Eckman’s cooperation during this time was instrumental in minimizing consequences associated with this major delay. Project Manager Mike Perloski, P.E., for Eckman said, “Fortunately, we had other PennDOT work in the Harrisburg area so we dovetailed that work with this project; otherwise, the heavy construction equipment would have been moved to projects much farther away and mobilization from project to project would have been costly and very time consuming.”

Wheeling in production

Major activities on this project included a wheel loader excavating the existing roadway pavement consisting of an 8-in.-thick steel reinforced concrete slab and a 5-in. asphalt paving overlay. It also set temporary precast concrete barrier sections between I-83 and Paxton Street. The interstate runs parallel and close by Paxton Street. The Volvo excavator likewise dug a deep footer for installing the permanent precast concrete barrier sections, and lastly it was used for removing the temporary barriers and installing the permanent non-glare, 52-in.-high precast concrete barrier sections.

A wheeled excavator was the most efficient way to excavate and install the concrete barriers, according to Perloski. He decided on using a wheeled excavator for a host of reasons. For one, it was preferred over a crawler excavator for this project because it can be driven over the existing traffic lanes without affecting the integrity of their smooth surfaces. Crawler excavators would tear up the surfaces substantially, and since a through-traffic lane had to be open at all times during construction, a rough-riding lane would have brought an outcry from the public.

Another reason for using the wheeled loader is it can be mobilized quickly from one work site on the project to another. Some work sites were as far as 4,000 ft apart. Crawler excavators are considerably slower to mobilize. Backhoe loaders also can be driven quickly from site to site, but they do not have the big production capacity of a wheeled excavator.

As for the wheeled excavators, Eckman both owns and rents predominantly Volvo models EW 180B and 160B. There are three new Volvo wheeled excavators in the contractor’s fleet plus another two to three that are rented as needed. The bigger model EW 180 B has an approximate operating weight of 43,600 lb, a breakout force of 25,000 lb/ft and a bucket capacity up to 1.44 cu yd. The model EW 160B weighs 38,590 lb, has a breakout force of 22,160 lb/ft and a maximum bucket capacity of 1.1 cu yd. The local Volvo distributor servicing the Eckman Volvo equipment is Penn-Jersey Volvo.

The final major construction activity for the wheeled excavator was to install the heavy precast concrete barriers.

About The Author: Garrett is a freelance writer in Bernville, Pa.

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