Friday, July 11, 2014

Work on $41.9 million I-81 interchange set

Radical redesign near airport will give access to industrial park, ease traffic congestion in Dupont.

May 16. 2013 11:48PM

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PITTSTON TWP. — The state is poised to award a $41.9 million contract to a Pennsylvania company to handle reconstruction of the Exit 178 interchange off of I-81.

The project also includes construction of a new roadway through Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport property to give tenants of the Grimes Industrial Park better access to the interstate and alleviate congestion of residential streets in Dupont.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has been looking at such a project for decades, but in recent years it picked up support from elected officials and the airport. It put the project out to bid with an expected price tag of about $45 million to $50 million, according to PennDOT spokesman James May.

But when bids were opened, four of the five came in below the $50 million threshold. All five bidders were Pennsylvania based. They are:

* Pennsy Supply Inc., of Annville, with the lowest bid at $41.9 million.

* Joseph B. Fay Co., of Tarentum, and Reading Materials, of Skippack, both with bids around $44.5 million.

* HRI Inc., of State College, with a bid of $47.5 million.

* New Enterprise Stone and Lime Co., of New Enterprise, with a bid of $52.9 million.

May said the contract will be awarded once PennDOT fully reviews it, and the work could begin next month. It could be completed by the end of 2015, and once it’s completed the way motorists access and exit I-81 near the airport will look drastically different.

Included in the project are:

* Reconfiguration of the I-81 interchange that will consolidate what is four on- and off-ramps in the Avoca area into two.

* Creation of a series of four roundabouts that will change the look of the entrance and exit to the airport.

* Construction of an extension to the existing Navy Way, including construction of a bridge over the Turnpike that will create better access to and from the businesses in the Grimes Industrial Park.

That last part of the work will open up more than 100 acres on the airport’s western side to potential development and is something the airport officials view as key. While the airport’s gateway will look different and there will be more traffic passing by its entrance and exit, the potential for development is a win for the facility, board Vice Chairman Corey D. O’Brien said.

The potential for emergencies could become greater with the new access road, and the airport is ready with its new $233,719 quick response firefighting vehicle. The 2012 Ford F550 chassis is equipped with 500 pounds of dry chemical, 300 gallons of water and 40 gallons of Aqueous Film Forming Foam.

The new vehicle replaces a 1996 vehicle that had passed its prime and joins the fleet of three firefighting vehicles, including two much larger engines. The size of the new vehicle gives it access to incidents the larger vehicles might not be able to get to.

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