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Indiana County road, bridge projects get enhancement boost

| Friday, April 11, 2014, 11:42 a.m.

PennDOT is on track to undertake $15.4 million in highway and bridge improvement projects in Indiana County this year, with about 40 percent of the total cost covered by the state's new Act 89 Transportation Enhancement Funding Program.

Because of funding limitations in the past several years, most PennDOT dollars have gone locally toward major traffic arteries and bridge projects, PennDOT District Executive Joseph P. Dubovi told local government officials and media at the April 4 annual PennDOT District 10 outreach meeting.

As a result, Dubovi said, “Our secondary (road) network is in poor condition” with some roads “on the verge of falling apart.

“Over the last several years, it's been getting worse because we have not been investing in paving, and we hope to change that going forward.”

George W. McAuley Jr., assistant district executive for maintenance, noted this year's Act 89 funding has allowed the District 10 office to proceed with “19.54 miles we weren't planning on paving” in Indiana County.

PennDOT plans to tap Act 89 funds in order to let bids for $6.4 million worth of proposed projects in Indiana County this year.

Among those projects are two in southern Indiana County, both expected to begin this summer, with bids to be let on May 1.

Traffic signals will be upgraded on Blairsville's Market Street, at the intersections of Morrow and Stewart streets, while a third signal at the intersection of Spring Street will be removed, at an estimated cost of $750,000.

Replacing existing signals posted at either side of the street, the new signals at Morrow and Stewart will be suspended over the center of the street — as is the case with the other Market Street signal, at the intersection of Walnut Street. Blairsville Borough officials requested the upgrade to address a safety issue; with only the Walnut Street signal centrally suspended, it dominated motorists' view of Market Street, sometimes causing them to ignore red lights at Morrow and Stewart.

Traffic counts conducted at Spring indicated a signal no longer was justified at that intersection.

It will cost an estimated $4.68 million to resurface Route 56 in Center and Brush Valley townships, on a 9.7-mile segment between Route 954 and the Buena Vista Bridge. That Act 89-funded project will finish work begun in that area this past summer.

Other work slated this year that is attributable to extra Act 89 funding includes: resurfacing of 8.43 miles of Route 403, between routes 286 and 119, at an estimated cost of $3.1 million; preservation of the West Shelocta truss bridge that carries Route 56 over Crooked Creek in Armstrong Township, recently awarded to Clearwater Construction at a cost of $721,000, with traffic detoured and completion expected by Oct. 10; resurfacing of a one-mile stretch of Route 219 in Cherry Tree Borough, at a cost estimated between $1 and $2.5 million.

Several other Indiana County highway and bridge projects that are planned or under way this year won't require Act 89 funding.

Bids are to be let on June 19 for a project to improve safety at the routes 422/259 intersection that provides access to Yellow Creek State Park. The project, which could cost between $1 million and $2.5 million, will add a lane for those turning from 422 on to 259.

Construction is expected to wrap up this year on several ongoing bridge replacement projects.

That includes installation of a box culvert to replace the structurally deficient Cramer Bridge No. 4 that carries Route 403 over a tributary to the Conemaugh River in East Wheatfield Township. J.C. Lee Construction and Supply is scheduled to complete the project by Sept. 22, but the new bridge is expected to reopen to traffic by the end of May, ending a detour that uses routes 56, 22 and 403.

Paul F. Koza, PennDOT assistant district executive for construction, noted that using the detour, as suggested by the contractor, cut about $130,000 from the project cost.

Work is nearing completion on replacement of the South Brush Valley Bridge on Route 56 in Brush Valley Township. Charles J. Merlo is the contractor for the $2.8 million project. Koza noted most of the remaining work involves replacement of displaced wetlands.

Gulisek Construction is nearing the end of work on the $2.2 million replacement of the South Two Lick Bridge on State Route 3035 in Center Township.

Contractor Plum Contracting has until April 2015 to complete a $3.2 million project to replace two adjacent bridges that carry the northbound and southbound lanes of the Route 119 bypass over East Pike in White Township. But, Koza noted, “We hope to have both structures done before winter.”

Until then, lane shifts will allow a restricted traffic flow to continue on Route 119 while the section of East Pike underneath the bridges will be closed on weekends and subject to a detour.

Additional traffic signal modifications are planned this year in Indiana County as part of a program offered through the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. A timing revision is slated for a series of signals on Indiana's Philadelphia Street while a signal will be removed and replaced by stop signs at Main and Elm streets in Homer City.

Brian N. Allen, PennDOT assistant district executive for design, reviewed highway and bridge projects that are proposed for Indiana County in 2015-2018 under the state Transportation Improvement Plan. He noted projects budgeted for 2015 and 2016 are expected to proceed, but the fate of those penciled in for the 2017 or 2018 construction years is uncertain. The latest update of the TIP, expected in October, could affect some project plans.

One of the major projects planned in 2015 is reconfiguration of the Route 119 intersection at Lucerne Road, north of Homer City.

Currently, Allen noted, “A lot of traffic cuts through the Sheetz intersection and adjacent areas,” to get between Route 119 and nearby old Route 119. The planned Route 119 Homer City North project, which is in the final design and right-of-way acquisition stages, would create a new road linking to Old 119 from the Lucerne crossroads, which will shift by about 100 feet.

Project manager Mark Rozich noted a separate new lane will be designated for those turning right from Route 119 northbound toward Lucerne. The plan calls for displacement of two homes and two commercial buildings — a warehouse and the former CoGos service station. The latter building, at the Lucerne intersection, has become the primary location for Accent Fuels since the company's headquarters in Homer City was gutted by fire last year.

The new connecting road will cross the Hoodlebug Trail. Rozich noted advance warning signs will be placed to alert motorists to the presence of bicyclists and hikers at the crossing.

The project cost is estimated at between $2.5 and $5 million. In addition to improving traffic flow at the intersection, Allen said the project will provide an alternate means of access to and from Route 119 for residents in neighborhoods located along the southbound lanes of the highway south of the Lucerne intersection.

Allen explained, once the project is complete, PennDOT is planning to change traffic patterns so that left turns would be eliminated where several side streets in those neighborhoods connect with 119.

In 2016, work is planned on a series of three Route 119 bridges south of Lucerne. At a potential cost of up to $10 million, the bridge over Tide Road is due for rehabilitation and that over Yellow Creek is slated for preservation while an abandoned railroad bridge would be removed.

Other bridges are planned for replacement in 2015, with each project carrying an estimated cost of up to $5 million: the Airport Road Bridge on Route 1006 in White Township; Shelocta Bridge No. 1 on Route 422 in Armstrong Township; and the eastbound and westbound bridges carrying Route 422 over Route 954 in White Township.

To improve safety, PennDOT is planning to realign an S-curve near United High School in East Wheatfield Township in 2015, at a projected cost of up to $10 million. Also that year, resurfacing is scheduled on Route 286 between Tanoma and Clymer, at a cost of up to $5 million.

Other projects scheduled for 2016 include: an intersection improvement on Route 286 at the Center Township village of Edgewood; construction of Grove Chapel truck climbing and turning lanes along Route 119 in Rayne Township; and replacement of the Wehrum Bridge carrying Route 2013 over Blacklick Creek in Buffington and East Wheatfield townships, Brush Valley Bridge No. 3 carrying Route 56 over Little Brush Creek, and bridges carrying Route 119 over Pine Run and railroad tracks in the Rayne Township village of Home.

In 2017, PennDOT is proposing to replace and realign the Grange Bridge that carries Route 217 over Stewart Run in Blacklick Township.

Among work tentatively planned in White Township in 2018 is continuation of the Rose Street Extension to connect with Philadelphia Street. Allen said PennDOT is updating traffic counts and revisiting plans that were made several years ago for the Rose Street project and were put on hold when funding wasn't available.

“We're going out and we're taking new traffic counts to determine if the projections we made years ago are still valid or not,” Allen said.

He noted that the ultimate design of the project might be affected by development that has occurred in the area during the interim: “It may not be the same project it was a few years ago.”

District 10 officials also are planning to complete a few smaller-scale projects by using the district's in-house work force. One such project scheduled for this year is replacement of Iselin Bridge No. 2, which carries Route 3021 over Harpers Runin Young Township. A detour will be in place during that work.

Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or

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