Expanding and Maintaining Our Nation’s First Super Highway

The Pennsylvania Turnpike was officially opened to traffic on October 1, 1940, more than 15 years before the nation’s interstate system was created. It was completed as part of the Roosevelt administration’s work-relief projects following an abandoned alignment that had been built to carry rail traffic between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. KCI has been working with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) for decades to help maintain and expand what was the country’s first super highway. From planning through design, environmental mitigation and permitting, public involvement, and onto construction inspection, the firm has worked on projects throughout the system.

Over the years, the Turnpike has more than tripled in length and now carries in excess of 190 million vehicles annually. Maintaining the 550-mile-long network is a constant challenge. KCI project manager Jonathon Perrego, PE, recalls that when he began working on turnpike projects shortly after joining the firm in the early 1990s, the PTC’s focus was on repair and rehabilitation of the road. Toward the end of the decade, their approach changed to a more long-term investment in total reconstruction. The Commission’s $6.5 billion total reconstruction capital program spans a 10-year time frame, with more than 100 miles completed and an additional 150 miles scheduled for the next decade. Projects call for fully replacing the original turnpike pavement as well as widening most sections from two to three lanes in each direction.

KCI is nearing completion of the design of 15 miles of full depth mainline reconstruction from Milepost 199 to 214, near Carlisle. To the east, the firm has also been providing public involvement support for the total reconstruction of a six-mile section of the mainline as well as 10 miles along I-476, the Northeastern Extension. KCI’s environmental scientists have developed mitigation plans for wetland and stream impacts for projects near Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

KCI work along the Pennsylvania Turnpike
KCI’s more than 30 years of experience working with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has included expansion, repair and reconstruction projects throughout the highway’s 550-mile footprint.

The firm also supports the total reconstruction effort in a design management role. “We are acting on behalf of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and assisting them with oversight for entire projects,” said Practice Leader Eric L. Martz, PE. “Our team serves as a liaison between the Commission and the design team, providing technical guidance and quality control.” KCI is responsible for reviewing submittals for everything from highway and structure plans to hydraulic modeling and right-of-way plots.

Working with ms consultants since 2005, the firm is providing design management to rebuild the original turnpike from Mileposts 124 to 134. The project was broken into two mainline sections and includes four early action projects, three of which have been completed. The complex roadway reconstruction required flattening of horizontal curves in mountainous terrain as well as coordination with the historic St. John the Baptist Church, which was built in 1890. It had become known as ‘The Church on the Turnpike’ from the time when parishioners used to park on the side of the highway and follow steps directly from the pavement up to the churchyard. The management and design team also had to contend with the New Baltimore Slide, a massive hillside that began slowly moving downhill when the original turnpike was built. After years of monitoring and measurements, plans call for excavation of nearly four million cubic yards of earth before rebuilding and stabilizing the slope. Construction began on the New Baltimore Slide, the contract’s fourth early action project, in 2015.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is very focused on the customer and holds the consultant community accountable for quality, schedule and budget.

Eric L. Martz, PERegional Practice Leader

Eric L. Martz, PE

As the Milepost 124 to 134 contract nears completion, KCI and a strong team of subconsultants were recently selected to provide design management for five upcoming sections of total reconstruction. This new $12 million agreement will involve oversight of more than 20 miles of highway across central and eastern Pennsylvania, with a total construction cost between $400 and $500 million. KCI will lead the most complex projects, including reconstruction of four miles of the Northeastern Extension near Allentown. This urban section includes a significant number of bridge crossings, many of which carry high traffic volumes over the turnpike. Design work is expected to span the next six to eight years.

Including the five new sections as well as previous engineering, design management, public involvement and construction inspection work, the firm has or will contribute to the successful completion of 11 different total reconstruction projects covering 72 miles of highway. As the turnpike celebrated its 75th birthday this October, the KCI team is excited to continue working with the Commission in their mission of providing a “safe, reliable, customer-valued toll road system that supports national mobility and commerce.”

Over the years, KCI has provided a wide array of services in support of maintenance, expansion and reconstruction of the Turnpike, including:

Construction inspection for the total reconstruction of Milepost 76 to 85
Design management for Milepost 124 to 134 including the New Baltimore Slide
Aerial photo of the Gettysburg Pike Interchange in Pennsylvania by Jeffrey Sauers of Commercial Photographics
Design of the Gettysburg Pike interchange and toll plaza reconstructio. Jeffrey Sauers of Commercial Photographics
Environmental mitigation for the I-95/I-276 interchange
Public involvement for the replacement of the Susquehanna River Bridge