Category Archives: Pennsylvania Turnpike

News about The Pennsylvania Turnpike, also called America’s First Superhighway

Delaware River Bridge To Remain Closed Two Months

Officials Announce April Reopening, But Only If “Best Case Scenario” Prevails

The Delaware River Bridge, which connects the New Jersey Turnpike and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, is slated to remain closed at least another eight weeks, officials announced Friday. The bridge was shut to civilian traffic on Friday, January 20 when a large crack was discovered in a support truss. The decision to keep the bridge closed was made by a joint engineering task force being co-led by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. The agencies jointly own and manage the DRB.

Jacking And Realigning Bridge To Take At Least One Month

Crack in Delaware River Bridge

Weight loads shifted considerably, officials say, when this crack opened in a support truss of the DRB, which has been closed to traffic since January 20, 2017. The bridge now must be realigned before the fracture can be repaired.

That means the next several weeks will be devoted to installing temporary towers and hydraulic jacks to realign the bridge. The groundwork for the jacking towers began last week, authorities said. Steel-pipe pilings are being installed underground, according to officials, that will support 80-foot towers. Those towers will be carefully jacked into position to realign the bridge, but that will not happen until early March, at least, according to authorities.

However, officials admit they do not know whether the rest of the bridge can support a regular traffic flow, and authorities said they will not be able to determine that until the jacking process is completed.

“The goal of the jacking operation is to return the bridge to its original position and allow us to complete a permanent splice of the fracture,” said Brad Heigel, Chief Engineer for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. “As the jacking operation occurs, and load is transferred within the bridge, instrumentation will monitor the actual loads, stresses and displacements, which will be compared to estimated outcomes from computer models.”

Agency Heads Say They Hope For “Best Case Scenario”, But Sound Cautionary Tone

“Under the best case scenario, the bridge will return to its original position and the construction team will be able to install a permanent repair splice on the fractured steel member,” officials with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority wrote in a prepared statement. “It is possible, however, that the process will reveal the need for a [sic] more complex repairs or possibly even replacement of the entire structure, in which case the closure would last longer.”

“We want to get this bridge reopened to traffic as soon as we are safely able to do so,” said New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Richard T. Hammer. Hammer also serves as chairman of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority board.

“We understand the inconvenience this closure creates for tens of thousands of drivers every day,” he said. “We are working around the clock to get it reopened. But we won’t allow a single car to cross that bridge until we are absolutely certain that it is safe.”

Alternate routes remain in effect for traffic crossing between the two states’ turnpikes. Authorities say the DRB carries an average of 42-thousand vehicles per day across the now-disabled span.

REPAIR TIMETABLE

The PTC announced a tentative repair timetable, which authorities say represents the best case scenario for reopening the bridge to traffic. That timetable is as follows:

Estimated Bridge Repair Timetable

  • Feb. 6 – Install jacking towers.
  • Feb. 13 – Install jacking towers, instrumentation and structural reinforcement required for jacking.
  • Feb. 20 – Install instrumentation and structural reinforcement required for jacking.
  • Feb. 27 – Install structural reinforcement required for jacking.
  • March 6 – Perform jacking.
  • March 13 – Install permanent repair splice.
  • March 20 – Perform load testing.
  • March 27 – Demobilize jacking towers.


ALTERNATE ROUTES

Eastbound Detour (Pennsylvania to New Jersey)

PA Turnpike motorists heading east into New Jersey should use this revised alternate route: Exit at the Bensalem Interchange, #351 in Bucks County. Follow U.S. Route 1 north, to I-95 north, to I-295, south, to I-195 east. Take Exit 6 on I-195, and reenter the NJ Turnpike. Source: PA Turnpike Commission.

Westbound Detour (New Jersey to Pennsylvania)

NJTP drivers heading west into Pennsylvania will need to use either Interstate 78, Interstate 295, or the Burlington-Bristol Bridge. Source: New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

“Extreme Delays” Likely Between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Authorities Warn

Delaware River Bridge To Be Closed Indefinitely Due To Crack In Structure

Delaware River Bridge

The Delaware River Bridge, linking New Jersey and Pennsylvania drivers, will remain closed indefinitely, officials have announced.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority are, jointly, warning drivers to expect “extreme delays” at crossings over the Delaware River due to the closure of the Delaware River Bridge. The bridge, which connects the New Jersey Turnpike to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, was closed Friday afternoon after a painting crew found a large crack in a support truss.

Officials with each state office were asking drivers to consider using public transit or carpooling to help reduce congestion. Authorities also have suggested people consider adjusting their work schedules, for those who can do so, or consider working from home, known in the tech world as telecommuting.

Updated Detours From State Officials In Pennsylvania And New Jersey

Meanwhile, authorities in both states listed an updated detour list, given the DRB is likely to remain closed for weeks to come. Essentially, drivers heading to New Jersey will be detoured off the Pennsylvania Turnpike at Exit 351, although local traffic will be permitted to access Exit 358, authorities with the PA Turnpike Commission announced. Meanwhile, drivers heading to Pennsylvania will be detoured off the New Jersey Turnpike at Exit 7A.

The full set of detours released by the states’ respective commissions is as follows:

  • Motorists heading to New Jersey will be detoured at PA Turnpike Exit 351 to Route 1 northbound to I-95 northbound, which becomes I-295 southbound in New Jersey, to I-195 eastbound to the New Jersey Turnpike. PA Turnpike Exit #358, Delaware Valley, will remain open for local traffic only; watch out for a single-lane pattern approaching Delaware Valley.
  • Motorists heading to Pennsylvania will be detoured at New Jersey Turnpike Interchange 7A to I-195 westbound to I-295 northbound, which becomes I-95 southbound; or from New Jersey Turnpike Interchange 5 to Mount Holly Road. Motorists traveling from northern New Jersey are advised to exit at Interchange 14 and use I-78 west into Pennsylvania.

Bridge Analysis To Take Several Weeks

Crack in Delaware River Bridge

The Culprit: This fracture, discovered by a painting crew Friday, January 20, forced the closure of the Delaware River Bridge. Officials said an analysis of the bridge’s structure will take several weeks. Until that is completed, at the very least, the bridge will remain closed. Photo: PA Turnpike Commission.

Engineers and construction crews worked through the weekend to stabilize the bridge at the site of the fracture; however, officials announced Saturday that a structural analysis of the bridge would take several weeks. “A comprehensive bridge analysis will be performed to better understand the global impact the fracture has had on the entire bridge,” authorities announced in a news release. “Information gathered is critical to determine the scope of and strategy for a permanent repair and reopening the bridge to traffic.”

“Unfortunately, at a minimum, the bridge will remain closed for several weeks,” said New Jersey Turnpike Authority Executive Director Joseph W. Mrozek in a written statement. “We will not be able to reopen it until we are absolutely certain it is safe. All of the agencies and contractors involved will be working urgently to make that happen as quickly as possible.”

The bridge has been undergoing a $61-million rehabilitation since 2012, according to officials, with in-depth inspections of the structure every two years. The $400-thousand cost is shared between the PTC and the NJTA, although the New Jersey Turnpike Authority manages the contract.

Sean Logan, chairman of the PA Turnpike Commission, said the most likely cause of the crack was rapidly-changing weather conditions, but that a complete analysis was prudent and necessary, aside simply assessing the fracture’s impact on the bridge.

“We are stabilizing the bridge now to prevent further movement,” Logan wrote. “However, out of an abundance of caution and to protect traveler safety, the bridge must remain closed until a full-scale analysis and repair plan have been completed.”

The four-lane bridge opened in 1956 and carries about 42,000 vehicles per day across the Delaware River.

 

Delaware River Bridge Closed Due To Structural Crack

Pennsylvania Turnpike Traffic Rerouted at East Terminus

Drivers On New Jersey Turnpike’s Pearl Harbor Memorial Extension Also Impacted

Crack in Delaware River BridgeThe Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and New Jersey Turnpike Authority have announced the Delaware River Bridge between Pennsylvania and New Jersey will remain closed for as long as two weeks, and perhaps longer, while a structural assessment is performed on the span, the commission announced late Saturday.  Both agencies, which jointly own and maintain the span, decided to close the bridge Friday after a crack was discovered in one of the bridge trusses. New Jersey Turnpike officials closed the westbound lanes of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Extension, as well, which connects the mainline of the NJ Turnpike to the DRB.

Stabilization work continues to enhance the structure of the bridge; however, authorities announced Saturday, in a written news release, a full assessment must be completed to determine how the truss defect has impacted the remainder of the bridge structure. “Due to the significant fracture, stresses have been redistributed to other parts of the bridge,” said PA Turnpike Chief Engineer Brad Heigel. “We regret the inconvenience of closing the bridge, however, it is necessary to properly evaluate the bridge’s current condition and determine next steps to ensure the safety to our customers.”

Site of crack on Delaware River Bridge

Location of the crack on The Delaware River Bridge, which connects the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Extension of the New Jersey Turnpike. Officials closed the bridge Friday, January 20, after a crack was discovered in the span. It will remain closed at least two weeks, officials announced Saturday. Photo: PA Turnpike Commission.

Authorities said the two-week assessment may take longer, depending on what authorities are able to learn. “Until more is understood about the damage, it is not possible to estimate how many days or weeks the bridge will need to be closed while the permanent fix is made,” officials wrote.

Officials with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority released an advisory that notified media and the public the repair of the structure will involve the construction of eight towers to help temporarily support the weight of the bridge. “Jacks will be used to attempt to lift the structure back into its original position,” the NJ Turnpike Authority announced in its advisory. “Sensors will be installed to enable engineers to monitor the load at key points on the structure.”

The fracture was discovered on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River Bridge during a routine check of the span by a painting crew on Friday.

The 1.2-mile span opened in 1956. About 42-thousand vehicles cross the span each day, according to officials with the agencies.

Eastbound Detour (Pennsylvania to New Jersey)

PA Turnpike motorists heading east into New Jersey should use this revised alternate route: Exit at the Bensalem Interchange, #351 in Bucks County. Follow U.S. Route 1 north, to I-95 north, to I-295, south, to I-195 east. Take Exit 6 on I-195, and reenter the NJ Turnpike. Source: PA Turnpike Commission.

Westbound Detour (New Jersey to Pennsylvania)

NJTP drivers heading west into Pennsylvania will need to use either Interstate 78, Interstate 295, or the Burlington-Bristol Bridge. Source: New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

2017 Toll Increases Impact Multiple States

Many Agencies Raising Tolls For Capital Improvement Projects

Road Widening and Technology Upgrades Lead Lists

Drivers across many of the nation’s toll roads will find themselves pitching more change into the basket as they pass barriers in 2017, as a number of states’ tolling agencies announced they are preparing to raise costs. Pennsylvania’s Turnpike Commission announced its rate increase in July, via an online news release. The Ohio Turnpike Commission began raising rates in 2013, and the commission has already published Ohio’s annual rate increases on its website through 2023. Illinois announced its rate increase for 2017 early in 2016.

DOWNLOAD 2017 TOLL BOOKS

Oklahoma Toll exhibit from NewsOK.com. Illinois Tollway rate card from Illinois Tollway. Ohio Turnpike toll rates from The Ohio Turnpike Commission. Pennsylvania Turnpike rates from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

In making its announcement for 2017, the PA Turnpike Commission said its toll increases were necessary to fund a “10-year spending plan which invests more than $5.77-billion” into the turnpike system. Part of that plan, the commission said, includes road widening and reconstruction projects.

The Ohio Turnpike Commission issued a proclamation, in 2013, that stated, in part, “[T]oll rate increases are needed to pay any increased operating costs over the next ten years, as well as increases in debt service payments required because of the issuance of Turnpike Revenue Bonds.”

Illinois Tollway construction

Road work on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway, in April 2016.

Meanwhile, Illinois has been on a massive technology and infrastructure improvement plan that, this year, included a major upgrade of the Jane Addams Memorial Highway, in addition to improvements on other toll roads of the Illinois Tollway system. The current set of price increases is due to impact primarily truckers. New all-electronic tolling systems are also set to become operational Illinois’ Route 390 later in 2017, according to the state’s official toll website.

Different Dates For Toll Rate Hikes From State To State

Not all 2017 increases are happening on New Year’s Day. While Illinois and Ohio are hiking rates on January 1, Pennsylvania is giving drivers a one-week grace period, of sorts. Penna rates will go up on January 8.

However, not all 2017 toll rate increases have been finalized, and not all state toll agencies know whether they plan to raise rates.

Some Toll Adjustments In Some States Still Uncertain

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority had planned a 12% toll increase that would take effect January 1, but a challenge to the bond issue the increase would fund has put the precise date, and the increase, in doubt, said Jack Damrill, the authority’s Director of Communications and Facilities.

However, Mr. Damrill sounded confident Oklahoma’s tolls would be adjusted in the coming year, regardless of the state’s Supreme Court case. “There is a good possibility the toll increase could be put on hold until the outcome of the litigation,” he wrote in an email, adding, “In short, our tolls will be changing sometime in 2017.”

Chad Huff, with Florida’s Department of Transportation, said authorities in that state were unsure about any toll increase on Florida’s Turnpike in 2017, even though the state’s legislature has authorized the agency to raise rates to keep up with U.S. Consumer Price Index, a process the state calls “toll indexing.” Huff said Florida’s toll agency would review the potential for a 2017 increase well after the start of the year, suggesting a decision may be made early in the second quarter of 2017. “Our toll rates are evaluated in the Spring, for possible implementation in the Summer,” Huff wrote TurnpikeInfo.com. “Best to check back in April.” Florida typically raises rates in July, although there were no increases in 2016.

Indiana, Massachusetts Hike Rates In 2016

Indiana Toll Road eastbound

The Indiana Toll Road, pictured above, recently underwent a major resurfacing that finally forced the state’s concession company to raise rates in July of 2016.

Some states have already raised rates ahead of the coming new year. Tolls across Indiana went up July 1, after an announcement by the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company, a private-sector company contracted to run the state’s 157-mile toll highway. The ITR connects to the Chicago Skyway on the west end and to the Ohio Turnpike at the east gate. The ITRCC announced the hike only two months before it officially took effect.

In Massachusetts, the residents and visitors traveling the Massachusetts Turnpike were introduced to new tolls on October 28, 2016, along with a new all-electronic toll system that no longer accepts cash. The Mass Pike, as it is known colloquially, connects to the New York State Thruway on the west end of the state, and to Boston and Logan International Airport in the east.

No Toll Increases For New Jersey, New York

Neither the New Jersey Turnpike nor the Garden State Parkway were due for a toll increase in the coming year, said Thomas Feeney, with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

In New York, a spokeswoman at the New York State Thruway press office said Governor Andrew Cuomo had frozen future toll increases until after 2020.

 

Penna Turnpike Exit 320 To Close Saturday Night

IMG_1681Repairs On Exit Tolling Equipment Forcing Temporary Shutdown

Exit 320 from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to State Road 29, also known as US Highway 202, will be closing overnight Saturday, according to a statement released today by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. The exit is an E-ZPass Only exit. The closure is set to last from 10 p.m. Saturday until 7 a.m. Sunday, but the closure times may change, based upon weather, said Renee Colburn, the PA Turnpike spokesperson.

In her written statement, Colburn said the closure is necessary to repair and upgrade electronic tolling equipment. Message boards will direct drivers who would normally want to utilize the exit.

Authorities are advising travelers driving westbound to use the Valley Forge exit, which is exit 326. Eastbound travelers are being advised to use the Downingtown exit, at mile marker 312. Alternatively, either exit may be used for drivers traveling in either direction. Please reference the Pennsylvania Turnpike map directory for a full list of exits near to SR 29.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Tolls Going Up January 5

2014 Toll Increase In Keystone State Will Hit Cash Customers Hardest

The cost of driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be increasing again when tolls are raised on January 5, 2014. Tolls have gone up annually on the Penna Turnpike, in recent years, to help pay for roadway renovations, expansions and a massive service plaza upgrade program that is winding down in 2014.

download Download a copy of the new toll rates here (PDF).

Traffic on Pennsylvania Turnpike

Drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are about to be hit with another annual price increase, and for cash customers, the increases are even higher than last year.

The rate hikes will hit cash customers hardest, as the average cash rate will surge by about 12%, according to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which announced the rate increase during the peak of the summer driving season. The increase was approved in mid July.

The PTC has been pushing more people to buy the electronic tolling device, E-ZPass, citing a lower cost of operation. Providing staff for toll booths is significantly reduced with the E-ZPass, and overall toll collection is anywhere from one-fifth to only one-tenth the cost of having to collect cash tolls, according to the PTC’s estimates. In fact, the 2014 cash price increase is 20% higher than 2013, while the E-ZPass rates are going up by the same percentage.

In fact, E-ZPass rates will only increase by about 2% on January 5, as opposed to the 12% for cash tolls. For short-distance travelers, the increase may not be little more than an irritation. The PTC reports the average cash toll on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is about $4.49, as opposed to $2.92 using the E-ZPass on the same trip.

Truckers To Face Steep New Travel Costs

However, the longer the distance traveled, the greater the pinch on the wallet. A traveler driving the full-length of the mainline, from Ohio to New Jersey, currently pays $39.15 in cash tolls, versus $30.77 for E-ZPass users. And those are only the lower rates, for passenger cars.

View of NJ turpike extension heading toward the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Delaware River

Trucks coming into Pennsylvania will be even costlier for operators, as higher-weight and more axles add significantly to toll costs, particularly for long-distance haulers.

With such a dramatic price increase in the cash toll rate, the coming differential will certainly be felt for both commuters and long-distance travelers. However, it is truckers who will really be hard hit by the rate increase. Currently, a 5-axle truck hauling about 35,000 pounds of freight will incur $121.80 in cash tolls; after January 5, that figure will increase to $136.40. E-ZPass prices will be higher, but the rate will only go from the current $96.03 to $97.95.

And the bigger the truck or heavier the load, the higher the price will be. Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike can run into the thousands of dollars for a trucker paying cash, and the 2014 price increase will ruther exacerbate those costs. In fact, the falling cost of diesel fuel will be lost in Pennsylvania, primarily offset by the coming turnpike toll increase.

The PTC has not announced whether it will continue raising rates on an annual basis and in perpetuity. However, regular drivers on Pennyslvania’s Turnpike and Northeast Extension have become accustomed to paying a new toll with the new year. For 2014, however, the rate increase comes a day earlier than it did in 2013.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission news release, announcing the toll increases, may be downloaded here.

 

download Download a copy of the new toll rates here (PDF).

Bridge Replacement Leaves Old York Road Bridge Closed For Six Months

The Old York Road Bridge over The Pennsylvania Turnpike is closed until October 2013 while construction crews replace the old span, originally constructed in the 1950’s. The bridge is being extended to accommodate extra lanes of traffic on the Penna Turnpike, which will be widened from four to six lanes of traffic through Harrisburg beginning in 2014.

The entire span of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is being rebuilt to upgrade travel lanes, add travel lanes and upgrade the roadway to newer construction standards. The Old York Road bridge was built in the 1950’s, and many sections of Pennsylvania’s turnpike were also constructed at that time.

The project will affect traffic primarily on Old York Road, although the bridge tear-down and rebuild will occassionally result in traffic impacts on the turnpike, itself, between mile posts 242 and 245, which is between the Harrisburg East and Harrisburg West exits.

Marsh Run Road

The Marsh Run Road bridge is one of two bridge spans currently being retrofitted or replaced over the Penna Turnpike in Harrisburg.

Another bridge span in the Harrisburg area, Marsh Run Road, is also being retrofitted for the turnpike widening project, but closures are not planned. Marsh Run Road construction has been ongoing for several weeks already.

For commuters who regularly use the Old York Road bridge, traffic will be detoured to I-83 for the next six months while the project continues.

Eight People Charged With Crimes Relating To Pennsylvania Turnpike Contracts

Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority

PTA headquarters building in Harrisburg, Pennslvyania, as seen from the westbound lanes near Exit 247.

A former leader of the Pennsylvania State Senate and seven other people have been charged with crimes related to vendor contracts and other key relationship contracts with the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The eight are charged with a variety of crimes, including conspiracy, commercial bribery, bid rigging, theft and conflict of interest. The charges and investigation were unveiled March 13 in Harrisburg, the home of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority’s main offices, which can be seen from the turnpike, itself. One of the people charged in the long-running investigation and criminal case is from Florida, although there was no indication any of the criminal activity was related to Florida’s Turnpike.

The defendants include former Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Leader Bob Mellow, the former chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Mitchell Rubin, and the former chief executive of the Penna Turnpike, Joe Brimmeier. Raymond Zajicek of Tarpon Springs, Florida, was the the only person charged who was not from Pennsylvania. The remaining defendants include two turnpike vendors, Dennis Miller and Jeffrey Suzenski, and two other former turnpike officials: George Hatalowich, Melvin Shelton. Mr. Zajicek, of Florida, was also once a turnpike official in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, said the defendants’ indictments were the result of a long-running probe dating to 2009. Kane was quoted in the Associated Press as saying, “The public has lost untold millions of dollars. The greatest improper influence was exerted over the turnpike’s procurement process.”

Indeed, the way the turnpike chose vendors may have been directed by the former Senate Democratic Leader. Kane said a grand jury found “substantial evidence” Mr. Mellow had directed at least one aide to help political contributors get contracts for work on the turnpike.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission released a statement calling the charges indefensible. “If charges against former [Pennsylvania] Turnpike employees are proven,” the statement reads, “we certainly cannot … defend that.

“Without a doubt, the commission remains committed to continuing our efforts to improve the accountability and operations of the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” the statement continues.

Drivers in Pennsylvania who commented on the news story, at least on the Internet, were quite mixed. One man said he would protest “as a statement against corruption” by staying off the turnpike.

Others offered positive feedback about the diligence of the attorney general’s office in helping expose the alleged criminal activity.

VIEW THE PTC STATEMENT HERE

Pennsylvania Turnpike: Trucker Alert for Kittatinny and Blue Mountain Tunnels

tunnel-lane-restrictions

Lane restrictions for Kittatinny and Blue Mtn. Tunnels

Truckers and bus drivers must now use the left lane through the twin tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, until further notice. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission issued it’s alert January 2, 2013 in which it restricted commercial traffic to the left lanes between mile markers 195 and 202. The restriction currently affects only the eastbound travel lanes.

The lane restrictions will remain in effect indefinitely; there is no word from PennDOT or the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission of whether the westbound lanes may also be affected.

The right lane of travel will remain open for regular cars and pick-up trucks, as well as other non-commercial traffic traveling through the tunnels. This restriction is near the Blue Mountain Exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Drivers are asked to carefully monitor highway radio at 1640 AM. Additional updates are being sent to news media, including TurnpikeInfo.com, regarding these lane restrictions.

See the tunnels: Kittatinny and Blue Mountain Tunnels: The Twin Tunnels