Massive Southern Beltway Project on Track to Finish Ahead of Schedule

Bulger & McDonald, Pennsylvania

Building four miles of a new 4-lane highway through the hills and valleys of Bulger and McDonald, Pennsylvania is no easy task. Throw in another three miles of on and off ramps, 2 ½ miles of state and township roads, plus two cul-de-sacs and that roughly describes the Southern Beltway SR 576, Section 55-A1 project. The Independence Excavating, Inc. (IX) team has tackled this $91 million Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) project head on starting in January of 2017. 

This 4-mile section of SR 576 is the first of seven phases that make up the 12-mile, $700 million Southern Beltway connecting SR 22 to I-79 southwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ultimately the Southern Beltway will complete the connection of SR 576 from the Pittsburgh International Airport to I-79 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

Over the past year, the project team has progressed full speed ahead, working 24 hours per day for much of this time, thanks to the tireless efforts from the Pittsburgh and Cleveland heavy/support shops and additional contributions from a great collection of subcontractors. The project is approximately 50% complete with about 65% of IX self-performed work completed to date. The major portion of this work is over 5 million cubic yards of excavation and embankment. The dirt was all moved in about 8 months using a Caterpillar 6015B, 2 Komatsu 1250s, dozers ranging from a Caterpillar D11 down to a John Deere 650, and a fleet of Caterpillar 777, 775 and 773 rock trucks.

Another challenging part of the project, SR 980 reconstruction, was completed this past fall. The re-alignment and widening of a ½ mile stretch of SR 980 was performed in order to add turn lanes and increase site distance to facilitate the proposed intersection with new Beech Hollow Road (SR 4010). Aside from the full road reconstruction, other work included a new rock toe bench along the existing stream, an 80-foot arch culvert extension utilizing a 6' x 6' 3-sided box culvert, new storm sewer, and temporary retaining walls. This was all performed in phases using traffic control devices, such as a temporary barrier to maintain two-lane multidirectional traffic, along with driveway access for homeowners along the route.

To date, two out of the seven bridges have been completed and overall 60% of the total bridge work is complete. Over 30,000 feet of storm sewer and 290 structures have been put in the ground. This includes 2,800 feet of large diameter reinforced concrete culvert pipe with 8-foot lengths of pipe
tipping the scales at 20 tons each. Other completed stormwater control measures include the  installation of 20 sediment basins and four miles of rock-lined channels. The waterline relocation for the Pennsylvania American Water Company is approximately 60% complete with about 1 mile of 12" waterline installed.

Looking ahead, roadway subbase placement began in March, with asphalt paving base following right behind in April. In anticipation of this, construction of a batch plant began in the fall with clearing of trees, erosion and sedimentation controls, earthwork, and stone placement for the pad. The batch plant will be fully operational by May to begin placement of over 68,000 cubic yards of concrete pavement finishing in November 2018. Remaining work following pavement includes permanent barrier, guide rail, sediment basin conversion, highway lighting, landscaping, and final seeding.

All work is scheduled to be completed by April 2019. Due to the diligence of the IX project team, the PTC, and the construction manager, CDR Maguire (CDRM) construction of the Southern Beltway, Section 55-A1 is on pace to finish ahead of the final completion date of May 17, 2019. All personnel involved in this project including the PTC, CDRM, the superintendent, project managers, surveyors, field engineers, operators, laborers, mechanics, heavy/support shops, office support staff, and co-ops should be proud of the progress made thus far, and look forward to finishing strong and ahead of schedule.

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