Kathy Liebler
                        Director of Public Information

C   O   M   M   I   S   S   I   O   N                N   E   W   S             R   E   L   E   A   S   E   

  Contact:   Carl DeFebo, (717) 939-9551 Ext. # 2934

February 10, 2000


Commission has spent almost $500 million on bridge-related work since 1990.

Harrisburg, PA. — The Pennsylvania Turnpike spent more than $76 million in 1999 to build 20 new bridges and to upgrade or replace 20 existing structures.

"That dollar figure — which represents a six-year high in bridge spending on the Pennsylvania Turnpike — demonstrates our commitment to ensuring the safety and reliability of bridges and other structures on the Turnpike," said Executive Director John Durbin. "It all goes back to our mission to operate a safe, reliable and valued toll-road system for the nearly 160 million motorists who annually travel the Turnpike."

Of the $76 million spent on bridges and other structures on the Turnpike, $20 million went for mainline bridges and $56 million was spent on new bridges on the Mon/Fayette Expressway. (The Mon/Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects — among the nation’s largest transportation infrastructure projects — will create about 100 miles of limited-access roadway to Pittsburgh’s south and west.)

Overall, nearly 40 structures were worked on in 1999. Besides the 20 new structures (19 of them on the Mon/Fayette Expressway), the Turnpike replaced five aging bridges, repaved two bridge decks and eliminated six unused or underused bridges (including five overpasses and one mainline bridge). In addition, one new retaining wall was constructed and work was completed on five other projects, like substructure and bridge-joint repairs.

The 506-mile roadway system includes more than 1,100 bridges in all.

Since 1990, the Turnpike has invested roughly $500 million to rehabilitate, replace or construct more than 376 structures, including 343 bridges and 33 miscellaneous structures like culverts and parapets.

"We’ve really attacked a lot of our bridges looking back over the past decade, completing some type of work on more than a third," said Bridge Engineering Manager Gary L. Graham, P.E.

Graham pointed to two structures as landmark projects in 1999. First, at 1,000 feet long by 200 feet high, the $11.8 million Maple Creek Bridge on the Mon-Fayette Expressway becomes, at least for now, the highest bridge on the Turnpike. Second, the $5.3 million reconstruction of the 600-foot long New Stanton Viaduct — the longest bridge on the original 160 miles of Turnpike from Carlisle to Irwin — replaced this former concrete-arch bridge with a five-span, steel curved-girder bridge.

The Turnpike continued another major project in 1999: the re-decking of Pennsylvania’s half of the 6,571-foot long Delaware River Bridge. (The New Jersey Turnpike Authority owns, operates and maintains the other half of the structure.) "Work is about halfway done on the $19 million project," said Graham. "We’re currently in phase two of the three-phase re-decking, which we expect to complete in the fall of 2002." The bridge is located at the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border in Bucks County.

Graham also pointed out that 1999 marked another "first" on the Pennsylvania Turnpike: It was the first time the Turnpike used a procurement method known as "design-build" in bidding out construction jobs. A fast-track bridge-replacement project in Bedford County was the first-ever Turnpike construction project — bridge or roadway — to enlist the design-build process.

Typically, projects are designed by a consulting firm, released for bid and then built by the lowest bidding construction firm. In design-build, the project is bid with minimal or no design: The design/builder completes the design and constructs the project. This allows completion time to be greatly reduced because the design can be finished while the job is being constructed. In traditional processes, the entire design must be done before the project can be bid and construction can begin. Another advantage with this process is that the design/builder can develop a more efficient design based on its specific construction capabilities, specialties and equipment, etc.

"Although the methodology is commonplace in the construction of commercial buildings, it is becoming more and more prevalent in government transportation construction," said Graham. In fact, he said, two additional design-build projects are planned on the Pennsylvania Turnpike this year.

Also in 1999, the Turnpike began studying the feasibility of replacing the 4,526-foot-long Susquehanna River Bridge near Harrisburg. Engineers recently selected a preferred alternative — positioned just north of the existing structure — that will widen the bridge from four lanes to six. Cost to replace this 50-year-old structure —the longest wholly owned bridge on the Turnpike — is estimated at $40 million. Graham said he is hopeful that a preliminary design will be selected this year, the final design completed in 2001 and construction initiated as early as 2002.

"Considering the Susquehanna River Bridge, the Delaware River Bridge, numerous upgrade projects and ongoing expansions, the year 2000 promises to be just as active, if not busier, than last year in the Turnpike’s bridge division," Graham concluded.


 P.O. Box 67676, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7676         Phone: (717) 939-9551         Fax: (717) 986-9649