The goal of the Route 381 Ohiopyle Multimodal Gateway project was to improve the SR 381 corridor through Ohiopyle State Park and Ohiopyle Borough, Fayette County, PA to better serve all users and all modes of travel.
Dawn Schilling, PE, AICP, Project Manager, Environmental Services in our Pittsburgh office, led a led a team of engineers and transportation specialists, including McCormick Taylor, AECOM, Arrow, Survey & Mapping, and Navarro & Wright, to complete this project from preliminary engineering through final design. This work, along with obtaining environmental clearances and permitting, was completed in one year. Construction began November 2018.
The construction schedule was aggressive and was completed during the winter so as to not disrupt the summer season for Ohiopyle State Park, which sees high visitation rates. McCormick Taylor was also under contract with PennDOT to provide construction services for this project. We sat down with Dawn to learn more about this project and its effect on the community.
Tell us a little bit about what the project is and who it benefits.
The Ohiopyle Multimodal Gateway (OMG) project is a safety and modal improvement project on Route 381 in Ohiopyle Borough, Fayette County, PA. Ohiopyle Borough is the heart of Ohiopyle State Park, the second-most-visited state park in Pennsylvania. The OMG Project improves accessibility and mobility for vehicles, bicyclists, boaters, and pedestrians.
What about the project highlights McCormick Taylor’s talents?
The project had a very aggressive schedule for both design and construction. McCormick Taylor staff across multiple offices worked together seamlessly to deliver this project faster than anyone thought possible.
Have you come across any challenges or concerns while working on this project?
The aggressive design schedule allowed only one year from notice to proceed with preliminary design to advertisement for construction. A typical project would have taken at least two years. Putting together a quality construction plan in such a short time was a huge challenge. Our team succeeded, however, and the winning construction bid was within just three percent of our bid estimate.
Were there any challenges related to COVID-19?
Not during design or the first year of construction. Due to the state park, construction was limited to two winter seasons and was anticipated to be open to traffic by Memorial Day 2020. However, COVID-19 impacted the second construction season when all work was halted in March and could not resume again until late May. Winter construction is difficult enough, but the added delays caused by the pandemic pushed back the completion date. The project was open to traffic on July 3 and final activities were completed through August.
Does the project have any unique aspects?
The project includes an off-road bike path and a reconstructed parking lot that were both designed with permeable pavement and underground stormwater storage. There are no aboveground stormwater ponds. Also, the project includes a pedestrian underpass beneath Route 381 from the parking lot to the park Visitor’s Center and boat launch area along the Youghiogheny River. The underpass was installed to reduce vehicle/pedestrian conflicts on Route 381 as Ohiopyle State Park averages 1.5 million visitors per year. Finally, the Route 381 Bridge over the Youghiogheny had a superstructure replacement and as part of that, an American Indian Wampum pattern design was incorporated onto the upstream facia beam of the bridge. This design was chosen in cooperation with the American Indian Tribes, ties to the area’s Native American heritage, and is a symbol from the time of William Penn’s dealings with the Native Americans.
What’s your favorite part of the project?
Working collaboratively with two state agencies, as both PennDOT and PA DCNR were involved in the project. The input from the two agencies related to design, landscaping, features like fencing and railing, aesthetics related to the stone on the underpass, and other coordinated design items resulted in a really cool and unique project.
What has the feedback been like from the community?
Ohiopyle is a small borough with many river- and park-dependent businesses that have a very short on-season. The park has peak usage from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and that is when the businesses make most of their annual income; many of them close in the winter. Working with the business owners and community leaders to develop a plan that allowed for construction but minimized impacts on them was challenging and at times contentious. PennDOT made sure to involve the community from the start of planning, before we were involved, through our design and into construction, which I think helped. Construction was still difficult on Ohiopyle, especially this summer with the COVID-19 delays. However, I think the final results will be worth the temporary inconvenience.