The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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June 28, 2014

Fear heights? Plan detour!

At 170 feet, deck of Valley span to rival San Fran’s Golden Gate

— WINFIELD — In just over one year, the state Department of Transportation plans to open proposals from contractors to build one of the longest highway bridges in Pennsylvania — a massive span that will carry traffic from a ridgetop just south of Winfield across the Susquehanna River to an interchange snuggled just north of Ridge Road in Point Township.

The four-lane bridge — extending more than three-quarters of a mile and towering 170 feet above the river — is the lynchpin in the $615 million Central Susquehanna Valley Transportation project — a highway plan designed to bypass north-south through traffic around the bustling Routes 11-15 business district in Hummels Wharf and Shamokin Dam, and away from the residential streets of Northumberland.

Bids for the bridge — the first of seven contracts for the Thruway project — are scheduled to be opened in August 2015. The bridge is part of the northern section of the project, which will link Route 15 with Route 147 and Interstate 180, said Sandra Tosca, executive for the state’s Engineering District 3-0 in Montoursville.

Construction of bridge will take about four years.

When completed, the northern section of the Thruway will divert heavy truck and other north-south through traffic out of Northumberland, establishing a direct highway connection from Route 15 near County Line Road at the Union-Snyder county line to the four lanes of Route 147 in Northumberland County, north to the Interstate 80 interchange or further northward on Interstate 180.

The southern section will connect the four lanes of Routes 11-15 at Selinsgrove, around the business district in Hummels Wharf and Shamokin Dam, northward to County Line Road and the northern section, as well as providing a clear path to the Veterans Memorial Bridge, the gateway to Sunbury, Route 61 and Route 147 south.

The transportation department is splitting the entire Thruway project into seven construction contracts, three for the northern section and four for the southern.

The entire project is expected to be completed by 2024, but it’s possible it might be completed sooner, PennDOT engineers said.

Preliminary designs for the Thruway were drafted several years ago, but a lack of funding as prevented the project from moving forward in recent years.

That changed in November 2013, when the state adopted Act 89, a highway funding plan that allocates sufficient funding to complete the $615 million project.

At 4,500 feet in length, the Thruway bridge will become one of the longer bridges in Pennsylvania, and its projected deck height at 170 feet above the Susquehanna is a mere 50 feet lower than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

PennDOT engineers said the limited-access span will look like most new concrete interstate bridges with two traffic lanes in each direction, separated by a median.

It should provide motorists with a spectacular view across the river valley.

In addition to the Thruway, Act 89 is providing funding for many other important projects in the district, Tosca said, noting that the additional state funding is enabling about 42 additional miles of paving, bringing this year’s districtwide paving projects to about 272 miles as well as five additional bridge repair or replacement projects — from 48 to 53 — and a number of maintenance efforts.

Along with dozens of resurfacing, maintenance and repair projects across the district, there are six major construction efforts under way or scheduled for this summer in Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties.

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