Obstacles fail to derail construction of thruway

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette The Central Susquehanna Valley Transportation Project (CSVT) on Wednesday March 20, 2019. PA-Rt 147 can be seen on the left.

The Susquehanna Valley Thruway project has been re-estimated to cost $865 million, according to PennDOT officials, who also provided an update on the northern section construction to Sun-Gazette editorial staff.

The project, said Sandra Tosca, District 3-0 executive for PennDOT, was divided into two sections, the northern — which is currently under construction — and the southern, for which ground has not yet been broken but whose redesign has added the majority of costs.

The southern section is projected to tie into the Route 15 interchange in Winfield, Union County, outside of the Selinsgrove bypass area where the four lanes ends on routes 11 and 15.

“Part of it was due to the

alternatives to avoid the ash basins – not go through the ash basins,” said Tosca. “We modified our alternatives.”

For much of the 20th century, coal power plants mixed fly ash — a byproduct of burning coal — with water and lime to create a material with a toothpaste consistency. This was pumped into large ditches, or basins, which were over 1,000-feet long and over 100-feet deep. Once filled, they were covered with soil.

Building an immensely heavy structure over this would warp the bridge over time, among other structural integrity issues.

“What (the redesign) ended up doing was lengthening some of the bridges that we had. Also, we had to make some modifications: There were some changes in utility impacts as a result of that,” said Tosca.

The final design of the southern section is ongoing, however, according to PennDOT officials.

Although the environmental

clearance for modifying the two miles of project alignment to avoid the ash basins was received in January, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocations, permitting and final plans and bid documents all must be acquired before construction can start in 2022.

The southern section is slated to start in 2022 and completion is anticipated in 2027.

The northern section starts south of Route 180, travels through the Northumberland area, and across the river before tying into Route 15 to the Winfield area, at the Union County interchange.

Currently, work is still being done on the bridge portion by the Trumbull Corporation, the contractor. Substructure work is being completed in various stages on the piers in the eastern portion of that bridge, according to construction updates released by PennDOT. Work is also still being done to the Wooded Run Bridge and Chillisquaque Creek Bridge in Northumberland County.

New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co. Inc., the contractor assigned to work on the Winfield Interchange, will begin work again shortly after shutting down their winter work operations.

Paving of the northern section also was awarded recently to New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co. Inc., according to Tosca. That work will begin sometime this spring. This is the fourth and final contract for the northern section. Upon its completion — projected for 2022, — the section will be open for traffic.

A part of raising the project cost to $865 million was choosing to go with bituminous and concrete paving.

“We’ve changed our pavement structure to have a longer life pavement to have on the facility, which we incorporated in the northern section,” said Tosca

Two other contracts, the second and third, are slated to be completed this year.

The second, for the “earthwork and structures for the alignment of Route 147 from the river bridge to the existing four- lane section of Route 147 in Point and West Chillisquaque townships, Northumberland County,” will cost $61 million, according to PennDOT documents.

The third, for the

“earthwork and structures for the Route 15 interchange, south of Winfield in Monroe Township, Snyder County and Union Township, Union County,” will cost $37 million, according to PennDOT documents.

The first contract, which is not expected to be completed until 2020, was to connect Route 147 in Point Township, Northumberland County, to Route 15 in Union Township, Union County.

PennDOT provides construction updates and visualization media via the Central Susquehanna Valley project website at www.CSVT.com.

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