When PennDOT looked at replacing the Route 11 bridge in Dickinson and West Pennsboro townships, a few things became clear.
The road, which is also a detour route for crashes on Interstate 81 and a bus route, could see a lengthy closure. PennDOT District 8 spokesman Greg Penny said the work could take six months if they closed the road, or nearly a year if they left a single lane open with a traffic signal.
Because of the road’s importance, however, the construction project lent itself as a worthy trial run for the department’s “accelerated bridge construction.”
Now, the bridge is expected to be mostly completed on Saturday, only two weeks after construction began.
“It’s the first time this district is doing this,” Penny said.
PennDOT had done something similar when it worked on the Route 581 bridge, but the Route 11 project requires complete replacement of the bridge.
The bridge carries Route 11/Ritner Highway over Alexander Spring Creek between Dickinson and West Pennsboro townships. The project involved demolition of the existing bridge and replacement with a pre-fabricated bridge.
The pieces of the new bridge are trucked in as they are needed through the accelerated construction process. Those pieces are then fit together like a jigsaw, Penny said.
So far, the construction crews are hitting their marks in the two-week schedule. For PennDOT, it’s a way to prove their crews are capable of this type of construction.
“To me, it’s one of the tools in our toolbox,” Penny said. “There will be construction where accelerated bridge construction will be the way to go.”
Penny said other factors could include hardships to businesses and residents, as well as heavy vehicular traffic.
And while a two-week schedule may be preferred by those who live near the construction, this new type of construction comes with a cost.
Penny said accelerated bridge construction comes with a premium cost. Though the new 56-foot long Route 11 bridge is on the smaller side — Penny said a box culvert could have been sufficient if not for the amount of water in the creek — the construction project costs $1.64 million.
PennDOT’s estimate is that the cost is about $400,000 more than it would have been if done conventionally.
Penny added that crews are also working very intensely during the two-week period, which is not a pace they could do year-round.
“You have to look at what are your gains,” Penny said, adding that doing this for all projects would deplete resources that could be used for other bridges.
However, with this being a notch in the district’s belt, it’s an option for bridges that would prove detrimental if they closed for long periods of time.
The Route 11 bridge is scheduled to re-open to traffic Saturday. There will be some remaining work left to do during the following weeks to rebuild and pave the road approaches to the bridge, and that will require single-lane traffic restrictions during the day with flaggers. The overall contract completion date for the project is late September.