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I-81 Reconstruction - Section 023

Location: Lebanon County, Pennsylvania Client: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 8-0

JMT designed the reconstruction of approximately 9 miles of Interstate 81.

PennDOT selected JMT for roadway design services for the reconstruction of approximately 9 miles of Interstate 81 (SR 0081, Section 023) from its split with Interstate 78 north to the Schuylkill County line.  Because this project did not include widening of the roadway, the initial expectation was that the most complex challenge would be maintenance of traffic during construction. As the design progressed, however, it became evident that this project was about more than just traffic control. Significant environmental issues, coupled with extensive bridge rehabilitation issues, required JMT in cooperation with PennDOT to implement innovative coordination and design techniques in order to deliver the project on time and within budget.

Environmental impacts included the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the historic Union Canal, the Swatara Multi-Use Trail, the Swatara Creek and a unique geological resource called the Swatara Slide, a slope directly adjacent to I-81 that contained fossils and artifacts. This multitude of environmental issues involved coordination with three federal, eight state and four local agencies regarding natural, cultural, and socioeconomic resources. Solutions included specifying that the excavated fossils be trucked to a nearby state park for use by archaeologists, design of a portage trail around the temporary causeway needed for bridge construction, and temporary relocation of the two trails.

Innovative design techniques were used for the concrete pavement construction. JMT's design called for continuous lime subgrade stabilization that provided a long-lasting, solid base for the roadway. Also, the design called for diamond grinding 100% of the mainline concrete pavement, including the five mainline I-81 bridges, in order to provide a smooth driving surface.  This was the first project in Pennsylvania for which these techniques were included as specified contract bid items. This project also introduced various strengths and types of bridge deck concretes on six structures in an effort to learn more about the most effective methods to improve resistance to cracking and overall deck quality.

Through the collaborative efforts of PennDOT and JMT, the project was a success. Construction was completed on time and for approximately 15% less than the budget.

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