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State OKs $1.1M for Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass toll plaza project

Jeff Himler
| Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, 9:54 p.m.
EZPass booth along Exit 8 on the Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
EZPass booth along Exit 8 on the Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016.

More than $1.1 million in state funding has been approved for modifications to a toll plaza and off-ramp on the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass near Greensburg.

The changes are meant to accommodate oversized trucks, particularly rigs hauling “super loads” coming from the Elliott Group's Jeannette plant.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday announced approval of the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Funds, with $410,000 worth of improvements recommended at the South Mainline Toll Plaza and $730,000 worth slated for the Route 130 northbound off-ramp at Exit 8.

The project includes removing a portion of an overhead canopy, reconstructing and widening a roadway at the toll plaza and building a bypass lane capable of handling large loads at Exit 8.

The modifications were recommended in a turnpike commission study that looked at the most cost-effective way to accommodate the large Elliott rigs.

Under turnpike regulations, a Class 9 special hauling permit is required for any vehicle weighing more than 100,000 pounds or exceeding 85 feet in length or 13 feet 6 inches in height. A maximum width of 11 feet 6 inches is extended to 14 feet on some sections of the turnpike system, including the Hutchinson Bypass.

According to turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo, Elliott Group's shipments include manufacturing equipment that can weigh as much as 400,000 pounds and stretch up to 16 feet in width.

DeFebo said the retrofit of the Hutchinson Bypass access points is meant to streamline the flow of traffic for oversized trucks and reduce the wait for vehicles behind them.

“We are used to accommodating over-dimensional loads,” he said. But such rigs “have very delicate maneuvers to make. They've had to have some guidance, and it takes some awhile to process through the toll plaza.”

The Hutchinson plaza project, he noted, “calls for removing a canopy, which is a height issue.” He wasn't aware of other such retrofits on the turnpike.

DeFebo said the modifications are expected to be in place within a year to 18 months. In addition to satisfying a request by Elliott, he noted the changes “will enable other commercial carriers to more easily ship over-dimensional loads on this part of the turnpike while minimizing disruption to non-commercial traffic that can experience delays while super loads squeeze through toll facilities.”

Dennis Davin, secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, said in a press release: “Instead of closing down roads to accommodate super loads, this project aims to offer a solution that is both beneficial to business and commuters.”

In the same release, Wolf said a goal of the Hutchinson Bypass project is “creating and retaining jobs by ensuring that companies can easily reach customers.”

The Elliott Group manufactures compressors and turbines for the petrochemical, refining and energy industries. A message left seeking comment from the company was not immediately returned.

In the news release, Elliott Group CEO Yasuyuki Uruma called the Hutchinson Bypass project “an excellent example of how government and industry can work together to enhance our infrastructure for the benefit of business, employees, customers and local communities.”

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622 or jhimler@tribweb.com.

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