A tanker truck fire destroyed the original bridge on May 9, 2013.
The new eastbound Route 22 bridge over Interstate 81 through the I-81 Exit 67 interchange just north of Harrisburg opened to one lane of traffic today at around 3:20 p.m. This is the bridge that was built over the past several months to replace the one that was destroyed and demolished as the result of a huge tanker truck fire underneath the bridge on May 9. The bridge that carries eastbound Route 22 and the bridge that carries westbound Route 22 over I-81 will each continue to be restricted to one lane of traffic for the next week as construction crews work to remove the median crossovers that were built as part of the emergency response last May and install guide-rails. When this work is completed, both eastbound and westbound Route 22 will be restored to two lanes through the interchange and over the bridges.
The tanker truck fire on May 9 occurred on the ramp from northbound Interstate 81 to westbound Route 22/322. The fire not only destroyed this ramp in the I-81 Exit 67 interchange, but also ruined the overhead bridge that carried eastbound Route 22 toward downtown Harrisburg, leading to that bridge’s demolition in the immediate days following the fire. Due to the damage to that bridge by the fire, it was necessary to remove it from over I-81 before the interstate could be reopened to traffic in the evening on May 13. The goal then was to rebuild and reopen the eastbound Route 22 bridge in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. To accomplish this, PennDOT awarded a $2.1 million contract to High Steel Structures, Inc. of Lancaster, Pennsylvania to fabricate new steel bridge beams and awarded a $3.3 million contract to G.A. & F.C. Wagman, Inc. of York, Pennsylvania, to repair the existing piers and abutments and build the new bridge superstructure and bridge deck.
Pennsy Supply, Inc., of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is the contractor that installed the emergency median crossovers for eastbound Route 22 in the immediate days following the fire. By utilizing the median crossovers and converting the westbound Route 22 bridge over I-81 to one lane in each direction, PennDOT was able to restore the eastbound Route 22 connection for motorists heading toward the City of Harrisburg. Pennsy Supply will now remove the crossovers, restore the median area, install guide-rail, and by the end of next week – if not earlier – return Route 22 to two lanes of traffic in both directions through the interchange. Average daily traffic on eastbound Route 22 is 16,058 vehicles; and on westbound Route 22, the average daily traffic is 11,515 vehicles.
Repairs to the ramp from northbound I-81 to westbound Route 22/322 should be finished by the end of the year. Repairs to this structure were greater than originally anticipated. Total damage was not fully evident until the partial demolition was completed. This led to additional structural design efforts which included more meticulous steel repairs and reinforcement. In the end, these repairs have taken slightly longer than expected. This work has involved repairs to damaged piers supporting the ramp, repairs to the damaged steel beams, and the complete removal and replacement of the deck of the ramp. This work is being conducted by J.D. Eckman, Inc. of Atglen, Pennsylvania. This is the same company that conducted the demolition of the eastbound Route 22 bridge that made possible the quick response in reopening I-81 to traffic after the tanker truck fire. Concrete for the new deck of the ramp has been poured. The concrete needs to cure before the next steps can be undertaken. When the deck is “out of cure”, the parapets (i.e., bridge walls) need to be built and the concrete for the parapets needs to cure before the ramp can be reopened to traffic. Based on what needs to be done and the required curing times, the goal is to reopen the ramp by the end of December.
Altogether, the cost of demolition in the aftermath of the May 9 tanker truck fire, rebuilding the eastbound Route 22 bridge, and rehabilitating the ramp from northbound I-81 to westbound Route 22/322 will range between $12 million and $13 million. Federal assistance from the U.S. Department of Transportation has provided $11.6 million toward the emergency response and repairs.
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