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I-70 Overpass to be replaced by July of 2011 - is a six lane I-70 possible?

PennDot quickly announced it's plans to rebuilt the Kammerer Interchange overpass that was destroyed by an over-height vehicle last week.  The new bridge that will carry McIlvanie Road over Interstate 70 should be re-opened in July of next year.

The new bridge will also be longer, wider, and higher.  The old bridge was built in the 1950s with a 14'9" clearance.  The new bridge will be built to modern interstate standards, and that means a higher vertical clearance of 16'6".  The cost will be between $4-$8 million.  The design-build contract will go out to bid on November 4th.

In the comments section of the original blog entry, Steve Williams suggested that PennDOT should bill the trucking company, driver, and insurance company for the cost to replace the bridge.  And according to PennDOT's Joe Szczur, they will be doing exactly that.  In the meantime, PennDOT is using emergency funds for the bridge replacement.

The new bridge will also be longer.  It will be built to accommodate a six lane I-70.  However, PennDOT doesn't have any concrete plans at the moment for widening the nearly sixty year old highway.  No word either if the replacement bridge will include a slight reconfiguration (wider) of the Kammerer Interchange.

Story Link:
Razed bridge's replacement set for July  ---Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Commentary:

My biggest takeaway from the article wasn't that PennDOT plans on billing the trucking company for the replacement bridge - or that it would be to modern interstate standards.  Common sense pretty much dictates that.  It was that the bridge will be built to accommodate a six lane I-70 that stuck out to me.

A six lane I-70 was first brought up in the 1970s.  This new I-70 would be built on a parallel alignment to the North.  However, the PennDOT fiscal crisis of the mid-70s killed any movement on that project.

So are there plans on the table for widening I-70 to six lanes? No, there is not.  Jon Schmitz of the Post-Gazette wrote me back and confirmed that there are not any immediate plans to widen the highway to six lanes.  The new bridge will have a 100 year life span, so hey why not build it to six lanes just in case that ever happens - and if the state ever has the money for it.

Right now PennDOT does have plans to do some safety improvements for I-70 which includes having a wider median, shoulders, and extending ramps where possible.  An example of this is currently underway at the Eight Four interchange with PA 519.  The interchange is being rebuilt and redesigned, and the highway is being widened to include a 10' median w/concrete barrier and 12' wide shoulders. But nothing about six lanes.

In order for a six lane I-70 to be possible, it's going to have to be tolled.  The right-of-way acquisition, interchange rebuilds, and more importantly the replacement of two lengthy bridges.  The Speers over the Monongahela and the Smithton High Level over the Youghbare going to put a six lane widening of I-70 from washing to New Stanton well into the billions of dollars.  and there's no real possibility of funding coming from traditional sources at this time.

So will we ever see a six lane I-70, I doubt it.  But that one line means PennDOT somewhere has an idea for it.

Comments

Brian R. said…
Most overpass reconstructions these days are designed to accommodate expanded roadways whether or not there are any widening plans in the near term, so it shouldn't be all that shocking that PennDOT would rebuild to better standards. They should be doing that, especially considering that they should be recouping the cost from insurance. It would be foolish for them to rebuild to the current standard (permissible when the result of an accident) and then have to bear the full cost should they have to expand later.

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