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I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge Replacement Project

I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge Replacement Project

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Project Overview

Study Area Map

The I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge that crosses over Maiden Creek in Greenwich Township in Berks County was built in 1955 and is located in a rural setting. It also serves as an overpass to SR 143. The bridge carries approximately 50,000 vehicles daily, approximately 35% of which is truck traffic.

Purpose & Need

The I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge is aging and does not meet current design standards. The purpose of the project is to provide a safe crossing of I-78 over Maiden Creek and SR 143. The project will improve traffic flow and operations on I-78 at the I-78/SR 143 interchange.

We've identified several needs this project is intended to address:

Insufficient shoulder width

The shoulders on the bridge are too narrow to provide for emergency vehicle access along I-78 or to provide a location for breakdowns to move out of the traffic lane. Adjacent sections of I-78 will have shoulders wide enough for emergency vehicle access and to accommodate breakdowns.

The bridge's aging structure

The bridge requires frequent repairs and maintenance due to deteriorated structural elements. The bridge is approaching the end of its serviceable lifespan.

Substandard acceleration/deceleration lane lengths

SR 143 to eastbound I-78 has practically no acceleration lane, and therefore traffic must come to a stop prior to merging onto eastbound I-78. This creates operating issues on I-78 as vehicles merging onto I-78 from the interchange are traveling at low speeds.

Project Design

As already presented and approved in the original CE evaluation of 2019, PennDOT proposes a total replacement of the I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge with a widened structure (to accommodate the addition of auxiliary lanes in each direction and full inside and outside shoulders which are currently substandard), roadway improvements along both bridge approaches on I-78, and ramp reconstruction at the Exit 35 Interchange to accommodate the widening and addition of acceleration and deceleration lanes.

You can see a plan sheet of the project below.

i-78 lenhartsville bridge design plan sheet
Click to view map larger.

The bridge will be reconstructed utilizing staged construction. It is anticipated that approximately seven stages will be required to facilitate construction while maintaining two travel lanes along I-78 in each direction. The stages will shift the travel lanes away from work areas to allow the contractor to complete the work. Temporary barriers will separate traffic from the work areas. Long-term closures of any I-78 or SR 143 travel lane is prohibited. However, one 15-minute total stoppage will be permitted every hour during off-peak hours. Single lane closures along I-78 will also be permitted during off-peak hours. Long-term I-78 and SR 143 interchange ramp closures are necessary to complete the interchange reconstruction. Only half of the interchange will be permitted to be closed at one time. It is anticipated the ramp detours will be in place for no longer than two weeks for each detour. No full detour will be needed for the reconstruction of the bridge.

Environmental Studies

Categorical Exclusion Reevaluation

A Categorical Exclusion Reevaluation documents how a project would affect the surrounding community's quality of life, including health, safety, cultural resources and more.

Through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review process, the I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge Replacement Project was approved as a Categorical Exclusion (CE) in November 2019, and the project team was allowed to move forward with final design and right-of-way acquisition. In February of 2021, the project was selected as a candidate for bridge tolling under the Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership (MBP3) and an Environmental Assessment (EA) was prepared to study the potential impacts related to tolling and toll diversion in accordance with NEPA. The EA was made available for public comment on May 4, 2022. In July 2022, the General Assembly amended the state's P3 law to remove tolling as a means of funding the MBP3. As a result, PennDOT is moving the I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge Replacement Project forward, but without tolling.

A CE Reevaluation is being completed for the I-78 Lenhartsville Bridge Replacement Project to evaluate and document the effects of the build alternative with tolling removed. Since tolling will not be initiated, diversion of traffic onto local roads to avoid the tolls will not occur. Therefore, the proposed improvements along the diversion routes will no longer be included in the project. Approval of the CE Reevaluation is anticipated this fall (2022).

Section 106

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires identification of, and assessment of effects on, historic properties and archaeological sites listed on, or eligible for listing on, the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Consultation with persons interested in the historic and archaeological properties/sites is integral to the Section 106 process and the project's public involvement. The Section 106 process includes identifying an Area of Potential Effect (APE) for the project, and inviting property owners within that APE, as well as historical societies and others to participate in the Section 106 process as "Consulting Parties." Separate APEs are established for the archaeological investigations and for above-ground historical properties.

Several historic properties were identified along the I-78 corridor, including the Lenhart Farm, the Maiden Creek Charcoal Furnace and the Hein Farm which are all listed resources in the NRHP. However, it was determined that the proposed project will completely avoid the properties and thus have no adverse effect on such historic resources.

A small portion of the Grims Mill Farmstead will be acquired for the construction of a stormwater basin; but the property was determined not eligible to the NRHP. Archaeological investigations were completed on the Grims Mill Farmstead property during final design, and it was confirmed there will be no impacts to archaeological resources. It was confirmed a Berks County Conservancy conservation easement exists on this property and a stormwater basin will be located on this property.

Wetland and Waterways Impacts and Mitigation

Wetland and waterway impacts were studied as a part of the Categorical Exclusion environmental studies for the project. The following impacts and mitigation were identified.

Streams, Rivers & Waterways Presence Impacts
Intermittent (Streams only) Present Yes
Perennial Present Yes
Wild Trout Streams Not Present No
Stocked Trout Streams Present Yes
Federal Wild & Scenic Rivers & Streams Not Present No
State Scenic Rivers & Streams Not Present No
Coast Guard Navigable Waterways Not Present No
Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission Water Trail Not Present No
Recreational Boating Waterway Present Yes

Maiden Creek and its tributaries, the unnamed tributary to Furnace Creek, and other channels were identified in the immediate project area. These streams were identified by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) Chapter 93 Water Quality Standards as having water uses protected for Trout Stocked Fishes and Migratory Fishes. Five hundred ninety-five linear feet of streams would be permanently impacted due to the widening of the bridge and culvert extensions. There will also be 311 linear feet of temporary stream impacts during construction.

Stream restoration to Channel 2 will be completed to mitigate temporary and permanent impacts that will occur during construction.

Maiden Creek is designated as a stocked trout stream, therefore, construction within the stream will be prohibited from February 15 to June 1.

Maiden Creek is not a designated water trail or a United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) navigable watercourse; however Maiden Creek is designated as a recreationally navigable stream by the Keystone Canoeing Guidebook (Gertler, 2004). An Aids to Navigation (ATON) plan will be in place during construction to assist boaters in navigating through the bridge area during construction.

Wetlands Presence Impacts
Open Water Not Present No
Vegetated Emergent Present Yes
Vegetated Scrub Shrub Present Yes
Vegetated Forested Present Yes
Exceptional Value Not Present No

There will be permanent impacts to three wetland areas as a result of the placement of fill and pier locations. The total acreage of these impacts is 0.35 acres. There will also be 0.503 acres of temporary wetland impacts during construction for access and staging.

Mitigation for permanent wetland impacts will be determined in final design in consultation with PA DEP and USACE and in accordance with current regulations. Orange protective fencing will be placed at the limits of work for wetland areas and some areas will require temporary wooden matting during construction activities to avoid permanent impacts.

Threatened and Endangered Plants and Animals

In studies of threatened and endangered plants and animals within the project area, the Eastern red belly turtle was identified. The following measures will be put in place to avoid impacts to the Eastern red belly turtle.

  1. No construction activities should be conducted in the water during the overwintering period. All in-stream construction activities should take place between May 1 and October 31 to allow turtles to avoid the project area while they are active.
  2. A Super Silt Fence barrier should be placed around the perimeter of the proposed area of disturbance to prevent turtles from accessing active work zones. This fence should be installed during the inactive period of the Eastern red belly turtle (November 1 to April 30) so that turtles do not get trapped in the work zone.
  3. Prior to the start of construction, potential basking habitat features (e.g., downed trees, rock piles, debris piles) should be removed from the construction area during the turtle's active period (May 1 to October 31). Removal of the basking sites prior to construction should serve to discourage turtles from using the project area for foraging or hibernating and allow them time to find alternative habitats. Basking features should be replaced where feasible once the project has been completed.
  4. If any turtles are found within the work area, photos will be taken to document the animals and they will be moved to a safe location outside the work area. Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) will be notified immediately.

Environmental Justice

Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority and Low-Income Populations (February 11, 1994), directs federal agencies to identify and address, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of programs, policies and activities on minority and low-income populations.

  • Low-income is defined as a person whose median household income is at or below the Department of Health and Human Services federal poverty guidelines ($26,500 for a household of four).
  • Minority is a person who is: (1) Black (2) Hispanic or Latino (3) Asian American (4) American Indian and Alaskan Native or (5) Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander.

While there may be low income and minority populations living in the general project area, the project involves replacing an existing bridge and improvements to the existing roadway. The end result will be an improved roadway for all to use. There will be no disproportionately high and adverse effects on low income and minority populations.

Socioeconomic Areas

Public Facilities and Services: Access for public facilities and services would be improved due to design improvements resulting from the project. Proposed traffic improvements will improve access to I-78 for emergency services.

Right-of-Way Acquisitions: No commercial or residential displacements are anticipated. All acquisitions will be conducted in accordance with the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisitions Policies Act of 1970, as amended; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code of 1964.

No effects on regional and community growth, community cohesion, displacements or aesthetics.