Highway work 'slow going,' but on track

September 07, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

Work on two major highway projects in Chambersburg - the widening of U.S. 30 and construction of an exit 17 on Interstate 81 - has been slowed, but not put off schedule, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman said.

"The theme is it's slow going," PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said. "We've been hampered by sinkholes and solid rock. We hit more than we expected."

Penny said both projects should be completed on time.

Exit 17 is supposed to be completed by the end of 2005. The widening of U.S. 30 is scheduled for completion a year later.


"Because of sinkholes, we ended up using more material to shore up the piers and abutments for the new Walker Road bridge over I-81," Penny said of the exit 17 project.

Ramps for the new exit 17 bridge cannot be built until the existing bridge is removed, he said.

The new bridge will be built south of the existing span.

Problems with sinkholes and rock are more prevalent on the exit 17 project than the one widening U.S. 30, Penny said.

The idea for a new interchange north of Chambersburg has been discussed for more than 17 years. Delays were caused by opposition to the project by area residents who came to battle armed with legal, environmental and historical arguments.

A major redesign of the project in 1998, which moved the exit farther south, also slowed progress.

When first proposed in 1987, the project was estimated to cost $7 million. Construction bids this year came in at more than double that amount.

Construction on the $29 million project to widen U.S. 30 from two to five lanes for about three miles east of Interstate 81 began this year.

While more rock and a few sinkholes have slowed construction, the real culprit, according to Penny, is finding and moving underground utility lines.

The lines, some of which have been buried longer than most people can remember, carry water, sewer and natural gas, he said. There also are underground storm-water pipes to contend with, he said.

"It's hard to determine where some of the lines are," Penny said. "We think a gas line is on the left side (of the road) and we find out it's on the right. We've found abandoned (gas) storage tanks that we don't know where they're from. The bottom line is that we think we can keep on schedule."

That section of U.S. 30 is, according to local officials, the most heavily traveled stretch of road in Franklin County.

PennDOT traffic studies show about 32,000 vehicles travel that stretch of road per day. About 12 percent of those vehicles are trucks.

Much of the road on both sides is lined with commercial development. Business for many owners is being disrupted by the construction.

PennDOT officials have said that widening the road, also known as Lincoln Highway East, is one of the most complex projects the state has undertaken.

When finished, the road will include two travel lanes in both directions bisected by a center passing lane.

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