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Monroe County: PA 611 Closed in Delaware Water Gap

County:  Monroe
Municipality:  Delaware Water Gap Borough and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Road name: PA 611/North Delaware Drive
Between:  Cherry Valley Road/Oak Street and Slateford Road
Type of restriction:  24-hour
Restriction:  PA 611 was closed Dec. 6, 2022 due to a rock slide caused by heavy rain. Traffic is being detoured on PA 512, PA 33, US 209, Interstate 80, and Business Route 209. 

For the safety of the motoring public, this section of PA 611 must stay closed and detoured while a project to remove additional loose rock and secure the rock face is being designed and constructed. Work will include scaling of loose rock, placing anchors into the rock, and installing wire mesh and concrete buttresses to secure the rock. 

Please note that local access is being maintained on PA 611 between Interstate 80 and Waring Drive/Mountain Road for people to get to properties and businesses between Cherry Valley Road/Oak Street and Waring Drive/Mountain Road in Delaware Water Gap Borough.  

PennDOT plans two phases of proposed rock scaling and removal on Route 611 within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Delaware Water Gap Borough, Monroe County.
The scope of Phase 1 consists only of scaling to remove loose rock throughout the project area within PennDOT’s right-of-way (the Phase 2 project otside PennDOT right-of-way will receive a separate environmental clearance once the full scope of work is identified, and will include long-term stabilization of slope sections). 
PennDOT has submitted documentation to the National Park Service (NPS) for review/concurrence and has requested an Emergency Special Use Permit to complete scaling operations within PennDOT’s Right-of-Way.
A Phase 1 Right-Of-Way exhibit has been provided to the NPS, along with Cultural Resources documentation and Concurrence Letter of ‘No Effect on above ground historic properties, including historic buildings, districts, structures and/or objects, should they exist, from the PA State Historic Preservation Office.
PennDOT received Special Use Permit application review comments from the National Park Service (NPS) on September 14, 2023.  

PennDOT drafted responses, coordinated an in-person meeting with NPS and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on September 28, 2023, and provided draft responses to NPS prior to the meeting. The meeting on the 28th provided a  productive discussion concerning both PennDOT’s and NPS’ clearance processes and procedures as well as the scope and construction methods for the emergency rock scaling operations. 

PennDOT’s action items following the meeting were as follows: flagging of the Department’s right-of-way (ROW) as well as overhead vegetation, scheduling a field walk through of the main areas of concern, and ongoing discussions for comment resolution such as construction monitoring and supporting information for clearance documents.

The ROW flagging operations began October 6, 2023 and concluded October 16, 2023.  

The field walk through with PennDOT and NPS occurred on October 17, 2023. The field meeting was productive in determining the individualized and global scaling evaluation and operation procedures, as well as discussion on associated vegetation removal required to safely execute the scaling.

PennDOT provided an updated scaling quantity and location document to the NPS following the meeting. 

On November 20, 2023 PennDOT District 5 Executive Chris Kufro and Assistant District Executive for Design Scott Vottero received a communication via an email from the National Park Service (NPS). 
The NPS stated they are still reviewing the Special Use Permit application and supporting materials. In reviewing information submitted by PennDOT as well as information gleaned from meetings and site visits, the NPS has considerable concern with the quantity of rock that is proposed to be removed. NPS believes the quantity is enough to possibly trigger a higher level of environmental review due to the increased scope and potential to impair park resources.   
NPS stated they are working with their regional and Washington support staffs to continue to review submissions to determine the best course of action and to best comply with the law. In addition, NPS has initiated mandatory tribal consultation with the four Federally-recognized sovereign tribes for whom the Delaware Water Gap, including Mt. Minsi, has a high level of significance as their ancestral homelands, as required by law.
PennDOT and FHWA met with NPS officials on December 21, 2023.  During that meeting PennDOT learned the NPS is still coordinating with their internal support staff to review the amount of rock to be removed and to determine if that triggers a higher level environmental review.  The NPS has an internal meeting scheduled for mid-January 2024 to discuss this matter in detail.  After that the NPS, PennDOT and FHWA plan to meet to review the outcomes of the internal NPS meeting.  The NPS has not requested any additional information from PennDOT in order to continue their review. 

PennDOT’s intent and goal is to open PA 611 to a single lane condition controlled with temporary traffic signals as soon as it can be done. PennDOT will continue to work with NPS to provide them with anything they may need to issue a Special Use Permit.

Once the Special Use Permit is issued by the NPS the prime contractor for Phase 1 will mobilize to complete vegetation removal operations in advance of the scaling work.

For the Phase 1 scaling, construction is expected to be shorter than 6 months, but it is dependent on the extent of scaling required. As scaling progresses, we will continually assess the estimated remaining duration.
PennDOT’s intent and goal is to open Route 611 to a single lane condition controlled with temporary traffic signals when Phase 1 scaling is complete. The road will not be fully open (one lane in each direction) until after Phase 2 work is complete. Currently there is no estimated timeline for Phase 2 work.
The contractors have been notified and funding has been secured, and preliminary design to begin scaling operations have been completed. Phase 1 scaling intent is to address the immediate safety concerns from the loose rock sections and to identify the locations for Phase 2 stabilizations.

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