Kathy Liebler

Manager, Public Affairs & Media Relations

C  O  M  M  I  S  S  I  O  N       N  E  W  S       R  E  L  E  A  S  E


Bill Capone, 717-939-9551, ext. 3040;
Carl DeFebo, 717-920-7176

February 15 , 2005


Pa. Turnpike Celebrates Start of Construction On $150 Million ‘Susquehanna River Bridge Project’

Groundbreaking ceremony will officially kickoff 3½-year highway improvement initiative.


STEELTON , PA. (Feb. 15, 2005) — State Turnpike Commission officials will break ground today at 2 p.m. for the Susquehanna River Bridge Project — a major construction undertaking that will result in a number of Turnpike upgrades including a new, six-lane Turnpike crossing over the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg. The new, 1.1-mile long bridge is being built just 60-feet north of the existing structure with minimal traffic disruption.

“The Commission has chosen an innovative design, called a precast concrete segmental bridge, for this distinctive signature bridge,” Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier said. “As the first major vehicular bridge in Pennsylvania to employ the segmental method, the bridge will become a keystone in the reconstruction of the Turnpike’s mainline.”

The project — the first in the region to be funded, in part, by additional revenue from an Aug. 1, 2004 toll increase — also includes vital enhancements to the adjoining highway and interchange. Besides replacing the bridge, the project comprises the total rebuild of more than a mile of Turnpike roadway as well as replacement of the toll plaza and other upgrades at the Harrisburg East Interchange (Exit #247).

The Susquehanna River Bridge Project includes three separate contracts, with overall construction management provided by Parsons Transportation Group, Philadelphia. The three interconnected jobs include:

  • replacement of the bridge alone, which is now under way and will be completed in May 2007 at a cost of $83 million (contract was awarded Nov. 16, 2004 to a joint venture between Edward Kraemer & Sons Inc., Hanover, Md. and G.A. & F.C. Wagman Inc., York, Pa.)
  • reconstruction and realignment of 1.5 miles of highway adjoining the bridge — including construction of a new interchange bridge and new on and off ramps at the Harrisburg East Interchange — set to begin in March 2005 and be finished in June 2008 at a cost of $52 million (contract was awarded Jan. 18, 2005 to Kinsley Construction Inc., York, Pa.); and
  • construction of a new, nine-lane toll plaza at Harrisburg East interchange — including a new fare-collection office and the addition of a third southbound lane on I-283 entering the Turnpike — scheduled to commence October 2005 with completion in May 2007 at cost of approximately $15 million (construction contract has not yet been awarded, bid date is July 2005).

“Altogether, this initiative represents an investment of more than $150 million in transportation improvements for the Capital Area,” Brimmeier said. “Every penny of the proceeds from last year’s toll increase is being reinvested into highway improvements such as the Susquehanna River Bridge Project.”

Figg Engineering Group of Exton, Pa.. — a leader in bridge design specializing in signature bridges — created the new Susquehanna River Bridge design. The bridge will boast sleek, modern aesthetics. Its tall, slender piers will feature a distinctive, vertical band of limestone cast into bright white concrete. Dramatic wash lighting will gently illuminate the superstructure (the outer façades beneath the roadway, visible only from off the Turnpike) at night. On the bridge deck, a low, concrete sidewall, or “parapet,” with fixed rails will allow passengers a spectacular view of the scenic Susquehanna.

The Susquehanna River Bridge will actually be two distinct structures — one for eastbound traffic and one for westbound — separated by about 8 feet. Each bridge will have the capacity for three lanes to accommodate rising traffic volumes. Nearly 30,000 vehicles per day use the bridge — a figure that is expected to double in the next 20 years. For improved safety, the new bridges will also have a 6-foot left (or inside) shoulder and a 12-foot right (or outside) shoulder, both of which the current bridge lacks.

Turnpike Chief Engineer Al Jansen, P.E., explained that, in the remarkable precast building method, the 78 concrete bridge piers, or support columns, will be cast in place across the river. Simultaneously, box-like bridge cross-sections will be cast at a special manufacturing plant now being set up in Steelton. Each massive cross-section or segment will be trucked to the site on a flatbed trailer. Then, they’ll be hoisted by a crane and lowered into a 150-foot-long steel frame (called a truss) resting atop two piers.

“Once we have 14 segments lined up on the truss, long steel cables will be strung through the segments and post-tensioned or stretched so that the span becomes self supporting,” said Jansen. “Then we launch the truss ahead to start loading 14 more segments for the next span. This process will occur 39 times for the westbound bridge, and then 39 times again for the eastbound bridge.”

In all, the bridge will be made up of more than 1,000 concrete segments that weigh as much as 100 tons a piece and measure, on average, 57 feet wide by 8.5 feet high and 12 feet long. The new bridge will be made up of 65,900 cubic yards of concrete — enough to pave 28 miles of a single-lane highway, or 253 miles of a 4-foot wide sidewalk. In addition, it will require 16.4 million pounds (or 8,200 tons) of reinforcing and post-tensioning steel — enough to build a 150-foot long section of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

The existing bridge will stay open throughout construction; it will be demolished after completion of the new bridges in 2007. The Susquehanna Bridge first opened Nov. 20, 1950 as part of the Turnpike’s Philadelphia Expansion — an $87 million project that lengthened the toll road 100 miles from Carlisle east to Valley Forge.

Traffic and construction progress about the bridge project can be monitored on the Turnpike’s web site at www.paturnpike.com. Click on “ Susquehanna River Bridge” to glimpse streaming video of live traffic on the present bridge. One traffic camera is operational now, and two others will be added to the site this spring.


 P.O. Box 67676, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7676         Phone: (717) 939-9551         Fax: (717) 986-9649