Well-constructed link

Aug. 26, 2007

Pioneering ideas used in building the Pennsylvania Turnpike were later used in building the nation’s Interstate Highway System. This fact adds a touch of poetic justice to efforts by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) to complete the final “missing link” in the 41,000-mile Interstate Highway System envisioned by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.

Pioneering ideas used in building the Pennsylvania Turnpike were later used in building the nation’s Interstate Highway System. This fact adds a touch of poetic justice to efforts by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) to complete the final “missing link” in the 41,000-mile Interstate Highway System envisioned by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.

The PTC is forging the link by constructing a $1 billion Pennsylvania Turnpike/I-95 Interchange just north of Philadelphia. By joining these two busy highways in the Keystone State, the interchange will reduce congestion locally and improve traffic flow regionally. It will connect the east- and westbound Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-276) with I-95, which runs 1,921 miles along the East Coast from Houlton, Maine, to Miami, Fla.

The PTC enlisted Jacobs Edwards and Kelcey to manage this complicated project throughout preconstruction phases, so Jacobs had to coordinate the work of three highway agencies, eight prime design consultants and a talented assembly of architects, design managers, intelligent transportation systems (ITS) experts and highway, bridge, traffic, mechanical and structural engineers.

The interchange encompasses a 9.2-mile stretch of the turnpike and a 3-mile stretch of I-95 that will cross into New Jersey. The turnpike will be widened from four to six lanes to accommodate the high-speed interchange and future capacity needs. The system terminus will be reconfigured for Express E-ZPass and relocated west of the interchange in Pennsylvania. I-95 will be widened, too, and ITS deployed throughout the project area.

In its later stages, the project will include design and construction of a second parallel bridge over the Delaware River into New Jersey and, finally, the rehabilitation and seismic retrofit of the existing 50-year-old Delaware River Bridge.

Preparing the project’s environmental impact study extended more than 10 years, resulting in a federal record of decision in late 2003. Early in 2004, the PTC selected Jacobs Edwards and Kelcey, along with subconsultants HNTB and AD Marble and Co., to perform all aspects of program management, including design management; agency coordination; financial management; interstate highway and structural design reviews; scheduling; environmental monitoring; and an extensive public involvement campaign. By March of that year, the project team initiated design of the preferred alternative.

Authorized by federal and state legislation, the project is slated for completion within 10-12 years. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) designated the interchange program to be a “Major Project” under guidelines in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. Consequently, the Jacobs team assembles and updates the requisite project management and financial plans, including year-of-expenditure costs that must be validated independently. The latest cost estimate of approximately $1 billion includes all design, management, utility relocation, property acquisition and construction costs. With the Delaware River Bridge components added, the estimate totals approximately $1.3 billion.

As the project’s lead highway agency, the PTC works with FHWA and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). The PTC will work increasingly with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority as time nears to build the interstate bridge across the Delaware River.

Spread the word
Public outreach has been a critical factor in advancing the project. To help keep elected officials and constituents informed about progress, the PTC established a local project office at Jacobs’ facilities within the project area. Visitors are met by designated Jacobs team members including Joseph F. “Jay” Roth III, P.E., senior program manager; Patrick J. Kelly, P.E., senior project engineer; Giovanni Ingegneri, P.E.; or Keith Mullins, P.E., who answer questions and often provide a project overview.

The Project Management Team (PMT), comprising the PTC, PennDOT, FHWA and Jacobs program managers, seeks to minimize the project’s impact on residents, businesses, historic properties, habitats, threatened and endangered species and other natural resources. The team has met this goal through a variety of innovations, especially using public involvement to find solutions.

The PMT reaches out to local advisory committees, residents and regulatory agencies via a newsletter, press releases and a project website: www.paturnpikei95.com. Mailed to more than 4,000 recipients, the newsletter also is posted on the website, which averages 4,000 hits per month. The site will soon include an animated 3-D computer simulation of the interchange, complete with moving traffic. The computer video provides a compelling bird’s-eye view and driver’s-eye view of the project taken from multiple locations. It is already a popular demonstration tool for public outreach.

To deepen local involvement, the PMT created a Design Advisory Committee (DAC) of project stakeholders, including government, environmental, civic and economic groups. The committee informs the community about progress and listens to community concerns about issues that need to be addressed in section designs.

Local agencies and businesses often want to know how problems such as traffic noise and storm-water runoff will affect constituents and businesses. The team tackled the noise issue by including 20 miles of sound walls in the project design. The team employed designs using the latest strategies for storm-water management to mitigate storm-water issues that were not addressed when the original sections of the turnpike and I-95 were built. Given its proximity to the Delaware River, the area is prone to flooding. The interchange design will improve storm-water and floodwater management significantly.

Successful outreach also depends on providing businesses a clear understanding about traffic congestion and detours likely to be caused by construction. The PMT has tailored traffic mitigation efforts accordingly in its transportation management plan. The team also created an Incident Management Committee of emergency responders including state and local police, firefighters and ambulance crews. They have set standard operating procedures to be used during construction to safeguard the public and to respond to incidents.

In addition to DAC initiatives, the PMT meets with representatives of state and local government to provide project updates and background information. Two weeks after the latest meeting, the PMT hosted public open house gatherings at which citizens viewed displays of planning boards and design drawings and met project managers of each of the eight design sections. The gatherings were the first projectwide public meetings held since the comprehensive series of open meetings required during the environmental study.

Holding it all together
The PMT ensures that commitments made in the final environmental impact statement are honored in the design phase and mitigates issues that arise. For instance, to provide compensatory mitigation for wetlands affected by the interchange, the PTC will restore more than 3 acres of wetlands and streams on land it purchased for use in building an earlier version of the interchange. The restoration will create a wetland habitat for wildlife and also serve to enhance water quality and allow floodwater retention.

The PMT also coordinates archaeological reports and surveys, which are shared with recognized Native American Tribes including the Delaware Nation, Oklahoma; the Delaware Tribe of Indians, Oklahoma; and the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. If human remains or artifacts associated with graves are uncovered, the PTC will notify relevant parties including Native American Tribes that may attach religious or cultural significance to the property in which they are found. The prompt resolution of these matters reduces the potential for delays in the project schedule.

Jacobs’ project management style is methodical. This approach is essential since the PTC has divided the project area into eight design sections and uses separate prime design consultants to head each section, a practice that breaks the project into manageable, constructible components and maximizes efficiency.
“Jacobs’ role is to hold it all together and ensure that the quality of the work remains consistently high,” said Donald Klingensmith, P.E., PTC engineering project manager. “We couldn’t be happier with the firm’s high level of comprehensive service.”

In managing the consultant teams, Jacobs coordinates the bid packages and will oversee the letting of at least 12 construction contracts by the PTC. By early 2008, work is scheduled to begin on wetlands mitigation and on replacing bridges that span the turnpike. The next phase involves widening the mainline and constructing the interchange and toll plazas.

Over its duration, the project will involve at least 23,000 sheets of plans. To keep track of that information, Jacobs’ Scott Eck, operations manager at the project office, maintains all files electronically. He also oversees a web-based scheduling and document control system to service design consultants and subconsultants. The information is accessible through a secure project portal that also is used to track project developments and schedules, changes, meeting calendars and meeting minutes. This project information and centralized document management portal is available to PMT members daily and includes maps and CAD drawings. Accessible via the Internet, the system also tracks the design decision-making process, compiles reviews and provides a method of resolving issues

About The Author: Roth is a senior program manager and Kelly is a senior project engineer with Jacobs Edwards and Kelcey, Morristown, N.J.

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