Schuylkill River Bridge/Diamond Run Viaduct Project
Construction Approaching
Halfway Mark
By Kay Jenkins Rew

The Pennsylvania Turnpike's ambitious and multi-faceted Schuylkill River Bridge/Diamond Run Viaduct construction project has now been underway for approximately one year. The $34.5 million project is located near Philadelphia, between the Valley Forge Interchange (Exit #24) and the Norristown Interchange (Exit #25) in Upper Merion Township, Montgomery County.

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The project includes construction of a new 1,224-foot bridge over the Schuylkill River adjacent to and south of the existing bridge, rehabilitation of the existing Schuylkill River Bridge, demolition and replacement of the Diamond Run Viaduct, and widening the roadway within project limits in order to accommodate future travel needs.

Turnpike Executive Director John T. Durbin said, "This stretch of the Turnpike was originally opened in 1954. Today, over 50,000 vehicles a day travel this portion of the Turnpike and studies show that this number will significantly increase in the near future."

Throughout construction, great care has been taken to keep traffic flowing through the project area with few delays for Turnpike motorists. Once preparatory work was complete, new traffic patterns were established that included narrow lanes (approximately 11-feet wide instead of the usual 12-foot lanes). However, four lanes of traffic have been maintained during peak travel hours. To help ensure the safety of work crews and travelers alike, motorists have been asked to drive through the construction site at reduced speeds.

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The Turnpike's new state-of-the-art Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) that includes Variable Messages Signs (VMSs) and Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) located at 1640 on the AM dial, are being used to advise drivers of any possible delays. Durbin remarked, "This is one of the most ambitious and complex mainline construction projects ever undertaken by the Turnpike, while maintaining four open lanes. The Turnpike is committed to doing everything possible to keep traffic moving within the project area."

The project is on target time-wise, and because contractors performed many jobs ahead of time, sixty percent of the budget has been spent. Civil Engineer

Bernard T. Bydlon said, "We have positioned all of the steel girders for the new structure and are now placing the bridge decks. If all goes as planned, both east and westbound traffic will be switched to the new Schuylkill River Bridge in early summer, while we continue to rehabilitate the original structure."

The Conrail bridge is complete and Bydlon commented, "In one area, our new structure abuts Conrail's property. We have enjoyed great cooperation with Conrail and Septa railways during this complicated project, as well as officials in Upper Merion Township and Montgomery County."

Bydlon also noted that this project is unique because of the geological makeup of the area. "We have run into a few challenges because of the karst (limestone) in the area. Before proceeding, we hired specialists to investigate the rock formations under the construction sites and have used stabilization techniques when necessary."

Next year, when the project is complete, the new Schuylkill River Bridge will carry eastbound Turnpike traffic and the existing, rehabilitated bridge will carry westbound traffic. The bridges are being built to accommodate an additional lane in each direction when traffic volumes increase in and around the busy Valley Forge area and require a six-lane highway.

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