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PennDOT: Route 225
may reopen this week

One of the two retaining walls installed along Route 225 on Peters Mountain takes shape last week. (Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation)

Route 225 over Peter’s Mountain could be open in time to accommodate Thanksgiving holiday and ‘‘Black Friday’’ traffic.

‘‘Our goal is to have the road reopened to traffic by Wednesday evening (Nov. 26) right before Thanksgiving,’’ Greg Penny, community relations coordinator for the state Department of Transportation, said late last week.

The road – one of the most heavily traveled in the Sentinel’s coverage area – has been closed since Oct. 27 so crews can stabilize two sections on the ‘‘north’’ (Halifax Twp.) side where the mountain slope has been slowly separating from the roadway.

Two separate retaining walls – and an anchor-type system underneath the roadway – have been built as part of the project.

Before traffic can return, however, several aspects of the work still must be completed.

“Both the upper and lower sections have been ‘fine graded’ and are ready for paving Monday (Nov. 24) – weather permitting,’’ Penny stated.

‘‘We should have warmer temperatures more conducive to paving on Monday, but rain is also forecasted – and we can’t pave in the rain,’’ he noted.

‘‘Once we pave the road, there’s still guide rail to be installed, shoulder backup to be placed, and traffic lines to be painted,’’ Penny stated. ‘‘We also have to back up the outside of the retaining wall with about two feet of rock.’’

Updates on the project will be posted on the Sentinel’s website and Facebook page.

North Side Story: Stabilizing the Slope
Story and photos by Duane Good
Additional photos courtesy of PennDOT District 8-0

The separation of the mountain slope and the roadway was visible in both the upper and lower areas.

A lack of traffic on Peter’s Mountain during the past month has not meant a lack of other activity.

Since the end of October, the steady hum of vehicle engines has been replaced with the grunts of heavy equipment, the clangs of a pile driver and the searing of acetylene torches.

And when that segment of Route 225 – one of the most heavily-traveled highways in the Sentinel’s coverage area – reopens in the near future, several changes will be visible to the road’s regular users.

As of press time (Nov. 24) for this week’s issue, state Department of Transportation officials are working toward reopening Route 225 over Peters Mountain by Thanksgiving eve.

Officials said the work – which began Oct. 27 and has been continuing six days a week to this point – was necessary to address a longstanding, and potentially dangerous, issue at two segments of the highway on the ‘‘north’’ (Halifax Twp.) side of the mountain.

‘‘It was only a matter of time.’’ As officials with PennDOT District 8-0 explained it, the mountain slope has been slowly separating from the roadway in two areas – one near the base of the north side; the other toward the top. One area was about 360 feet in length, the other about 200, the equivalent of almost two football fields.

‘‘It has been an issue for a while. Our maintenance crews have had to do patching in the area for many years,’’ according to Mike Deiter, District 8-0’s construction manager for Dauphin and Perry counties.

The district office also was getting calls from drivers who were noticing cracks along the road shoulder in the affected areas, added Greg Penny, District 8-0’s community relations coordinator.

On average, an estimated 11,200 vehicles travel the affected segment of Route 225 on a daily basis, according to PennDOT.

Once in place, the beams are connected by steel rods.

As PennDOT planned to undertake a major paving project involving Route 225 on both sides of the mountain, it was decided to first address the deteriorating slope before the situation got worse.

‘‘You could tell you had some separation between the roadway and guiderail; the asphalt was starting to crack and settle,’’ Deiter explained.

‘‘It was only a matter of time. It might have been 10 months or it could have been 10 years,’’ he said about a complete separation, an incident called a ‘‘failure’’ in PennDOT terminology.

After several solutions were considered, it was decided to build a support system that would stabilize the slope and halt further deterioration.

The system would take the form of additional supports underneath the roadway and retaining walls above it. 

Because the work would involve excavating large segments of road as well as the use of various heavy-equipment pieces, Route 225 across the mountain needed to be closed.

PennDOT officials said the closure had to affect both the north side, where the work was being done, as well as the ‘‘south’’ (Middle Paxton Twp.) portion to allow access to the site for construction crews and equipment.

PennDOT originally projected that work would take ‘‘at least four weeks,’’ possibly longer.

‘‘Even though this road closure is a disadvantage to motorists in the short run, it’s actually for the best,” Deiter said. “Instead of waiting for the road to fail and then we respond to the problem – which could require months to design a solution, hire a contractor and conduct the work – we’ve been pro-active.

‘‘As a result, we can address the two slope areas we’re most concerned about in weeks rather than months – and that’s a big benefit for motorists who depend on this route over Peters Mountain,’’ he said.

In addition, the road closure allowed other crews for the contractor a window of opportunity to make repairs on the south side, including drainage work, pipe replacement, tree trimming and minor repairs to the road base.

The paving project originally scheduled for this past August now will take place during the spring and summer of 2015 on a six-miles stretch of Route 225  between  the intersection with Route 325 (Mountain Road) in Middle Paxton Twp. and the intersection with Route 147 in Halifax Twp. (aka the Triangle). 

Stabilizing the slope. At the time of  the Sentinel’s visit to the site Nov. 13, both segments had been excavated and work was progressing on both the visible and invisible components of the roadway support system.

The system includes components that are common in construction work (such as multi-story buildings) that involve trying to build a stable foundation within soil.

Separate steel structural beams are put into position by a crane, then hammered into the earth by a pile driver, which clangs repeatedly until the beam refuses to go any deeper.

Welders severed each beam to an acceptable height, and the process continued until a complete network of beams was visible in the excavated roadway.

In addition, beams were hammered into the road shoulder as part of construction of a retaining wall for both road segments.

Both the outside and interior beams were connected by steel rods, creating an interdependent anchor. For further stability, timber laggings were installed as part of the retaining wall.

Noting that the crane itself – A Manitowoc-brand lattice boom crawler – occupied a ‘‘footprint” equal to a single traffic lane, Deiter said it would have been impossible to keep the other lane open because the additional space was needed for the pile-driving process.

Also, because the road on the mountain’s north side has a noticeable upgrade, care had to be taken to keep the crane on as a level a base as possible – not just to prevent a tip-over, but also to ensure that the H-Piles were driven in at the right locations.

According to Deiter, it would have been ‘‘a nightmare’’ to try and do the necessary work in the overnight hours and keep the road open for daytime use. The crane, for example, would have had to be dismantled and reassembled for each shift.

‘‘Instead of a job that would take five-to-six weeks with the road closed, trying to keep the road open during the day would have drawn out the work to three-to-four months and cost three-to-four times as much money,’’ Deiter said.

Few complaints. In all, the necessary work has been ‘‘moving fairly quickly,’’ with the general contractor, Hummelstown-based Handwerk, keeping the project going forward with minimal issues, according to Deiter.

‘‘We’ve been able to adapt to anything that came up,’’ he said.

If there were any challenges, it was making sure that the grade on the north side was not preventing them from properly installing the beams needed for the support system, Deiter noted. It was difficult lining up the beams where they needed to go, and some adjustments had to be made on site. These issues were resolved in the field.

The public at large has been patient with the ongoing process, Penny stated.

‘‘People have been very understanding and have given us the benefit of the doubt,’’ he said. ‘‘I haven’t received many complaints,’’

Touring the actual construction site – as the Sentinel did in preparation for this article – ‘‘gives you a sense of how involved (the work) is,’’ Penny noted.

Even the resident of the house at the very top of the mountain has been cooperative, Deiter noted.

‘‘The gentleman has been very nice to us, letting us turn our trucks around or park vehicles there when we needed to,’’ he said.


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