TOWAMENCIN TWP. — Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) leaders and elected officials this morning marked the start of a major project to rebuild and widen the busiest section of the Northeastern Extension in Montgomery County. Officials broke ground on the $198 million project to completely reconstruct a five-mile section of Interstate 476 and expand the highway from four to six lanes.
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioner Pat Deon and Chief Executive Officer Mark Compton were joined by State Senator John Rafferty, State Rep. Kate Harper, State Rep. Bob Godshall, State Rep. Matt Bradford, Montgomery County Commissioners, township officials and project-team members to celebrate the start of the milepost A26 to A31 reconstruction and widening project.
The stretch of roadway receiving the expansion is nearly 100 miles away from Wilkes-Barre.
“This stretch of I-476 between Mid-County and the Lansdale Interchange is the busiest four-lane section of highway across the entire Turnpike system, with average traffic exceeding 65,500 vehicles per day,” CEO Compton said. “What’s more, traffic volumes are expected to surpass 100,000 vehicles per day by the year 2030, so this improvement project is vitally needed to accommodate increasing traffic.”
The project includes the area just south of Berks Road and just north of the Lansdale Interchange and traverses Worcester, Upper Gwynedd, Towamencin, and Lower Salford townships.
The project — funded wholly by toll revenues without any state or federal tax dollars — is being built by Allan A. Myers (AAM) of Worcester, Pa.
Work is expected to last two and a half years until its anticipated completion in late 2016.
To help alleviate congestion at the toll plaza and on local connections around the Lansdale Interchange, three new on/off ramps will be constructed as part of the project. These new slip ramps, two of which will be “E-ZPass-Only,” ramps, will provide new options to access I-476. The E-ZPass Only ramps allow motorists to connect to I-476 directly, avoiding the toll-plaza area all together. Last year more than 10 million vehicles used the Lansdale Interchange.
The contractor will widen and replace the six mainline bridges where the Northeastern Extension crosses over Berks Road, Schultz Road, South Valley Forge Road, Green Lane Road, Wambold Road and Skippack Creek. To accommodate the widening, three overhead bridges that carry Kriebel Road, Morris Road and Sumneytown Pike have already been rebuilt.
During construction, the Turnpike will take steps to ensure that disruptions and delays are kept to a minimum. Four lanes will be available most of the time, with single-lane closures limited to off-peak hours. In later phases, the contractor will need to implement intermittent stoppages or detours, but such work is restricted to off-peak hours and early Sunday mornings.
The $190 million six-mile “southern” widening project between the Mid-County Interchange (Exit #20) and Berks Road (milepost A26) is expected to be completed by October. The southern section has been in construction since 2011.
“The southern and northern section projects are significant because they represent the first total-reconstruction on the Northeastern Extension since it opened in 1955,” said Turnpike Commissioner Pat Deon. “But we’re not stopping here. Once we’ve completed this project, we’ll begin a similar reconstruction and widening to the north.”
Two projects are currently in design between Lansdale and Quakertown; Milepost A31-A38 (construction scheduled for 2017) and Milepost A38 and the Quakertown Interchange (Exit #44).
Deon added that the A26 to A31 job was made possible by the 2103 transportation-funding law known as Act 89 – which reduced the amount of funding the PTC is obliged to transfer to the commonwealth by $400 million a year starting in 2023.
“We could not have gotten this project off the ground without the passage last year of Act 89,” Deon said. “Because of this reduced funding requirement, the PTC was able to increase our own capital spending on major projects like this one, enabling us to continue to focus on rebuilding the Turnpike – which celebrates its 75th birthday next year.”
Full-depth reconstruction involves removing all original pavement and sub-base and replacing it with an entirely new roadway. The existing, four-lane highway will be replaced with a six-lane highway with 12-foot-wide shoulders to the left and right of travel lanes. (By comparison, the current roadway has a 1-foot left shoulder and a right shoulder width of 8 to 10 feet.) All other facets of the highway will be replaced, including lighting, barriers and guide rail, noise and retention walls and drainage systems.