Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) officials broke ground yesterday for the Swatara Creek Bridge Project—a major construction undertaking that will result in a number of upgrades including a new, wider crossing over the Swatara Creek and Swatara Creek Road near Middletown, Pa.
The bridge replacement is one part of an improvement project that will result in the reconstruction of 1.5 miles of turnpike mainline (I-76) between the Harrisburg East Exit and the Lebanon-Lancaster Exit. The project includes replacement of two other bridges, one carrying the turnpike over Vine Street and another over the historic Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad on the Swatara Creek’s west bank.
The project, located in Middletown Borough and Lower Swatara and Londonderry townships, is being financed completely by turnpike users with toll revenues; it is part of the PTC’s long-term initiative to rebuild and modernize “America’s First Superhighway,” its bridges and interchanges.
“The Pennsylvania Turnpike will mark its 75th year of service in 2015, and that important milestone is both an accolade and a formidable challenge,” said Turnpike Vice Chairman A. Michael Pratt of Carlisle, Pa. “While it’s an honor to be the forerunner of our nation's interstate system—the model upon which America’s highways were built—it also means that parts of our system have outlived their design life and are in dire need of restoration.”
The PTC has been totally reconstructing segments of the highway since 2000 and has thus far replaced more than 100 miles of its 550-mile system. A greatly enhanced capital plan recently approved by commissioners will enable engineers to rebuild the turnpike at a faster pace.
“The enhanced capital plan calls for record levels of investment to make the turnpike roadway better for our customers; in the upcoming fiscal year, we will spend more than $600 million on highway improvements—much of it focused on projects like the Swatara Creek Bridge that provide a smoother, safer trip for travelers,” said Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “Beyond the benefits to customers, this project and others like it also create good-paying jobs and help to boost the economy here in southern Dauphin County.”
The new creek bridge will be a four-span, steel girder structure with a reinforced-concrete deck and three reinforced-concrete piers. The new roadway template will provide capacity for three lanes in each direction to accommodate traffic growth and will include wide shoulders and a wider median for added safety. More than 26,000 vehicles per day use the bridge—a figure expected to grow in the coming years.
Besides new roadway and bridges, the project includes 6,450 ft of sound barriers, 2,000 ft of repair of a heavily eroded tributary to Swatara Creek, 1,600 ft of retaining walls and a new 3-acre wetland site.
The existing bridge, which opened Nov. 20, 1950, as part of the turnpike’s Philadelphia expansion, will stay open throughout construction; it will be demolished after completion of the new bridges in 2016.
The project was designed by HAKS Group Inc., Philadelphia. Construction management is being provided by Hill International Inc., Marlton, N.J., and the general contractor is Swank Construction Co., New Kensington, Pa. The bid amount for construction is $48 million.
Construction of this three-year project will be completed with minimum impact on turnpike travel, though occasional off-peak, short-term lane closures may be necessary. Traffic and construction progress about the project can be monitored on the turnpike’s website at http://www.paturnpike.com. Click on “Swatara Creek Bridge” to glimpse streaming video of traffic on the current bridge.
The project is one of several improvements the PTC has made in south-central Pennsylvania since 2010.
“In the last five years, the commission has invested more than $193 million in our roadway in Cumberland, York and Dauphin counties alone,” Vice Chairman Pratt said. “In addition, we intend to continue this level of spending, making the road better for customers and helping to grow the economy for those who live in the region.”