When the state's third (and PennDOT District 8's second) Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) opened to traffic last year at Interstate 83 and Route 851 (Exit 4) in York County, area residents were generous in expressing their satisfaction with every aspect of the project. They were pleased with how the approximately $30 million project progressed through design and construction and the responsiveness of PennDOT and its contractors to any issues that arose.
They were particularly happy with the results. In addition to reconfiguring the interchange to improve safety and operations, the project also included esthetic improvements – landscaping, a welcome sign, a U.S. and commonwealth flag display, and patriotic artwork in an abutment in the form of a Liberty Bell logo with a quote from the Declaration of Independence, "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness". As the first exit on I-83 north of the Maryland border, the Exit 4 DDI is a showroom-quality interchange that serves as a beautiful gateway to Pennsylvania.
Now the construction industry is learning what the locals have known all along. The project won multiple awards for its design and construction.
For design, the project received the American Council of Engineering Companies – Pennsylvania (ACEC-PA) 2022 Diamond Award and the ASHE-NE 2022 Regional Award, while it was the recipient of the APC-PA TQI Award for construction.
Major participants in the project included design consultants Gannett Fleming, Inc., of Camp Hill, and prime contractor Kinsley Construction, Inc., of York. District 8 Senior Project Manager Mark Malhenzie guided the project through design. District Assistant Construction Manager Vaughn Schlachter oversaw the project through construction until he was promoted and turned the project over to Assistant Construction Manager Mike Reeder.
They had their work cut out for them. The project included the replacement of the northbound and southbound bridges that carry I-83 over Route 851 with two-span structures allowing enough clearance for Route 851 to be widened to four lanes and realigned into the DDI configuration. The on- and off-ramps were lengthened and reconstructed and a culvert that carries a creek beneath the interchange was replaced.
The project was complex, with constraints on its footprint due to surrounding land uses, steep terrain, and environmental features, including adjacent businesses, wetlands, a public wellhead, and a stream. This required a great deal of planning to maintain traffic and accommodate construction activities.
During construction, a priority was placed on good communication with local officials, residents and emergency responders. If an issue cropped up, it was handled promptly. Best of all, the project achieved its objective of reducing congestion and improving safety at the interchange. As of this spring, emergency responders reported no major crashes since the DDI opened to traffic.
"This new interchange is a result of our continued efforts to provide those who live and work in Pennsylvania with a safe, modern transportation network," Governor Tom Wolf said on the day the interchange opened to traffic. "Transportation improvements such as this are essential to the state's economic health and overall quality of life."
"PennDOT is committed using innovative solutions to improve the safety and efficiency of highways," Transportation Secretary Yasmin Gramian said. "The diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 83 and Route 851 will increase safety by reducing the number and severity of crashes and improve the efficient movement of traffic in southern York County."