PennDOT Explains Highway Work

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DUNMORE — PennDOT spokesman James May answered some questions that viewers had about ongoing road repair projects.

Is 81 going to always look like a quilt-gone-bad, with patches all over it? 

No.  What they have been doing out there now is primarily base repair (and some pothole patching).

“The purpose of the base repair (which causes a lot of the patchwork look) is to prepare the road for a resurfacing that will be taking place in the near future.  They are working out the details with funding – and I’ll let you know as soon as I get the details on when it will start – but the work is to prepare the road to be completely resurfaced from the Luzerne County line to the concrete section, just north of the Central Scranton Expressway.

“This will be a complete resurfacing, and will take place in both directions, all four lanes.  I am waiting on a call back from our contract manager as to the specifics on when that will start.”

Why were guys out picking up litter during rush hour, with a lane closed? 

“They were picking up litter in an area that was blocked off for other work being done.  As a general rule, we don’t ever block lanes of traffic, during rush hour, in the corridor area in order to pick up litter.  We try to combine that with other work being done.”

Why do you start at 8:30 a.m. instead of later in the day? 

“We are trying to do as much work as humanly possible in the middle of two rush hours (morning and afternoon).  Depending on the nature of the work – and the amount of work that needs to be done — we often start after 9 a.m.   However, there are some times that we go a little bit before 9, because there is a good chance that if we don’t go 30 minutes earlier in the morning, we would end up going into the afternoon rush hour.

“With the work that you referenced yesterday (Tuesday), they began setting up the pattern at 8:30 a.m. and then started working at 9 a.m.  While this does eat into about 30 minutes of “rush hour”, the 8:30 to 9 a.m. time has significantly less traffic than the 7 to 8:30 a.m. time.

“Ironically – as I’m writing this — I just got an alert telling me that the work on I-81 South that was supposed to be wrapped up at 3 p.m. today, is not going to be finished until 4 p.m.  If we had started that work at 9:00 this morning, we’d now be out there until 4:30.

“Many times, stealing a little bit of time from 8:30 to 9:00 gives us a bit more leeway on the other end if/when work goes longer than planned (which is fairly often). The other option would be to shorten the amount of time they are out each day, but that would only extend the work…plus we need to be all done with all maintenance by Memorial Day, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

“Finally, (and this ties in with the next question), this morning, there was work being done down near Wilkes-Barre, heading north during morning rush hour.  This was work that had been done through the night the night before, and was supposed to be wrapped up by 7 a.m.   However, due to some mechanical problems, it was extended until about 8:15.  So, that work was work that was being wrapped up from the night before, not work that was just starting for the day.

Why don’t you work at night?  

“A lot of work does take place at night.  Right now, in addition to the work I just referenced down in Wilkes-Barre, we are working on the concrete section near Exit 188 at night.  We shut down the ramp from Dunmore/Throop every night from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next day.  There have been single lane closures at Exit 190 every night to deliver moment slab for a bridge project.

“So, work does take place at night.  However, certain work would be much, much more expensive if it took place at night.  First, for pothole patching, no local asphalt plant is going to open at night for the amount of asphalt we need (and asphalt – like concrete – can’t just sit for hours.  It eventually does what it is supposed to do, and hardens).

“Then, for a moving operation like patching potholes, the amount of work needed to safely do that at night would not be close to cost-effective if we could do it.  We would need to set up a light, run a generator to power it, fill a pothole, tear it down, move it, set it up, run a generator, fill a pothole…move the light…etc).

“For pothole patching, it just doesn’t work because the plants are not open and it is logistically not feasible.

“As far as Florida – I’m guessing that most of their work is bigger/construction type work since they don’t have as many potholes as we do, since they don’t have the drastic freeze/thaw cycles that we have in PA.  The weather is not only kinder to people who live in Florida, it is also kinder to the roads.”