What to Know
- Crews will work to replace a bridge along the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Northeast Extension in just one weekend.
- Interstate 476 between the Lehigh Valley (A 56) and Mahoning Valley (A 74) interchanges and Route 309 will be closed from Sept. 6 to 9.
- Why the work is being done and the long detours around it are listed in this story.
A nearly 20-mile stretch of the busy Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and a section of Route 309 are set to be closed for the entire weekend.
The closure of both directions of Interstate 476 between the Lehigh Valley (A 56) and Mahoning Valley (A 74) interchanges will allow for crews to replace the mainline bridge over Route 309 in Lehigh County.
Construction crews will demolish the existing deteriorating structure and replace it with a new bridge in just one weekend, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spokeswoman Kathleen Walter said.
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
The commission's advice: "avoid the area."
We have your full guide to the Northeast Extension/Route 309 closure, which starts Friday night.
How Long the Northeast Extension and Route 309 Be Closed?
The plan is to keep the limited-access turnpike closed from 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6, until 4 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 9. The closure on Route 309 goes into effect at 7 p.m. that Friday and lasts until 6 a.m. that Monday.
During that time, no vehicles outside of crews working on the project will be allowed to access either roadway.
The turnpike commission worked with golf clubs, colleges, universities and other community partners to alert them of the closure and work to lessen the impact, Walter said.
How Much of Each Road Will Be Closed?
About 18 miles of the Northeast Extension will be closed to drivers heading up to the Poconos or down toward the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia-area suburbs. With summer temps still in effect, a lot of weekend vacationers could be planning to use the highway and will need to find different routes. (Detours are listed below.)
The half-mile stretch of Route 309, which is a two-lane road at that point, will be closed between Chapmans and Snowdrift roads.
How Many Drivers Use the Northeast Extension on a Normal Weekend?
On average, 37,392 southbound drivers and 33,824 northbound drivers use I-476 between Lehigh Valley and Mahoning Valley from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday, the turnpike said.
Why Does the Bridge Need Replaced?
The bridge at milepost 58.88 was built in 1957 and is no longer viable. Most bridges are expected to last around 50 years at least. This one is now 62 years old.
What Road Work Is Being Completed?
Atglen, Pennsylvania, construction company JD Eckman Inc. will pull off the demolition of the old bridge and placement of the new 90-foot span with a crew of about 100 people working 12 hour shifts around the clock, the turnpike said.
What normally takes more than a year to complete “will only take 55 hours,” Walter said. That’s because crews have been using a nearby holding yard over the past 18 months or so to build the new steel beam bridge with a concrete reinforced deck.
"Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) is a technique that drastically decreases the traffic impact to the traveling public while reducing worker exposure in construction zones," turnpike senior bridge engineer Wally Wimer said. "It also eliminates the need for months or years of shoulder closures, single-lane traffic patterns and other restrictions for motorists."
The cost of the project is about $3.77 million, the turnpike said.
A similar weekend-long project was carried out to replace the Northeast Extension bridge over Crackerspot Road two years ago.
Of course, weather could slow the process.
What If Rain Is in the Forecast?
Should there be more than just nuisance rain in the forecast, crews will delay work one week, meaning the closure will take place from Sept. 13 to Sept. 16.
Even if some drizzle or light rain falls, crews should still be able to complete the project by Monday morning, the turnpike commission said.
How Do I Get Around the Closures? Here Are the Detours
The turnpike is asking customers to avoid the area if they can. For drivers who don’t heed the warning, there are detours (estimated to take about 65 minutes or more) that will take drivers dozens of miles out of the way on other surrounding roads.
If you are heading south toward the Philly burbs, you may want to get off I-476 well before the closure to save time.
"...We strongly urge customers to steer clear of these areas during the detour (weekend) or build in plenty of extra travel time," Wimer said.
Southbound I-476 Detour – Local Traffic (About 60 Miles):
Exit at Mahoning Valley (Interchange 74) and take U.S. Route 209 North to State Route 33 South (21.2 miles). Follow Route 33 South to U.S. Route 22 West (18.4 miles). Follow Route 22 West and reenter I-476 South at the Lehigh Valley Interchange (Interchange 56) (15.8 miles).
Southbound I-476 Detour – Through Traffic: (About 70 Miles)
Exit at Pocono Exit (Interchange 95) and take Interstate 80 East to State Route 33 South (25.5 miles). Follow Route 33 South to U.S. Route 22 West (23.6 miles). Follow Route 22 West and reenter I-476 South at the Lehigh Valley Interchange (15.8 miles).
Northbound I-476 Detour (at least 66.1 Miles)
Exit at Lehigh Valley (No. 56) and take U.S. Route 22 East to State Route 33 North (16.5 miles). Follow Route 33 North to Interstate 80 West (24.5 miles). Follow I-80 West and reenter I-476 at the Pocono Interchange (25.1 miles).
You can also hop off at Quakertown (Interchange 44) and use State Route 663 (3.5 miles) to Route 309 North (9 miles) to Interstate 78 (10.5 miles) to Route 33 North 28.1 miles) to pick up I-80 West 25.1 miles toward the Pocono Interchange.
Route 309 Detour
The turnpike suggests drivers use Route 22 and Route 100. Smaller area roads can also be used to get around the closure.
Orange-and-black detour signs will be posted, the turnpike commission said.