HAZLE TOWNSHIP, PA — Now officially open to the public, the new 1.1-mile, four-lane S.R. 424 Beltway Extension is bringing much needed capacity to the rapidly growing Greater Hazleton Area. On November 9, leaders from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) joined project team members and other officials for a ribbon cutting in celebration of the project’s completion.
The new connector links the existing S.R. 424 Beltway from Interstate 81 to S.R. 924, providing secondary access to Humboldt Industrial Park (HIP). The connector also includes new turn lanes and traffic signals, an at-grade railroad crossing and latex modified concrete overlay for existing bridges along the corridor. Built in 1963, HIP is one of the state’s largest industrial parks and home to many businesses that employ a large portion of the Greater Hazleton Area workforce.
Benesch provided preliminary engineering, final design and construction administration for the project. A value planning session conducted during the early stages of the project resulted in twelve alternative alignments. Because the area between HIP and S.R. 424 is watershed property owned by the Hazleton City Authority, an Environmental Assessment was required to investigate all twelve alternatives. The selected alternative had to balance the needs of several stakeholders, including PennDOT; business park owner CAN DO, Inc. and associated businesses within the park; adjacent property owners; the Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad; and public utilities.
To minimize the impact on the watershed property, including other sensitive environmental features such as exceptional value wetlands and threatened endangered species, Benesch designed a controlled drainage system for the new roadway that will direct runoff away from the watershed. Water quality best management practices such as bioretention areas, infiltration basins and sediment forebays were also used to treat runoff from the project.
By providing an alternate route to access HIP, the Beltway extension alleviates traffic along S.R. 924 and allows for easier movement of traffic onto I-81, serving industrial, commercial, residential and emergency needs. With plans in place to construct more distribution centers by the end of the decade, the new Beltway will help to accommodate the increasing traffic.
“Benesch has been involved in this project since the very beginning,” said Benesch project manager Michael Cera, PE. “Projects like this one come with a lot of complexities: environmental sensitivities, a wide range of stakeholders, unique stormwater needs… when you compound that with the area’s long-term expansion goals and continued growth, it’s critical that we land on a design that can meet all of those competing needs and serve the area for decades to come.”
After more than 15 years in the making due to funding constraints, the successful collaboration between PennDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, Benesch’s design team and the contractor led to the $25 million dollar Beltway’s completion—a year ahead of the original schedule.
“Mr. Cera and his team have developed a reputation for completing projects on time and within budget,” shared PennDOT project manager Sue Williams. “He and his team consistently exceed expectations.”