LAUREL VALLEY TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROJECT SR 981, SECTION Q20 (ROUTE 819 TO NORVELT)

WESTMORELAND COUNTY, PA

The project is one of three roadway modernization projects along SR 981 that resulted from PennDOT District 12-0’s Laurel Valley Feasibility Study completed by McCormick Taylor.

PLANNING & COMMUNICATIONS , INFRASTRUCTURE

THE CHALLENGE

The SR 981, Section Q20 Project is approximately 4.5 miles and extends from the intersection of SR 981 and SR 819, just north of Mount Pleasant Borough, and ends near the intersection of SR 981 and SR 2023 in Norvelt, Mount Pleasant Township. The project is a partnership between PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in cooperation with Westmoreland County.

 

Existing SR 981 was plagued with crash-prone areas as a result of poor roadway and intersection geometry, lack of multimodal access, drainage concerns, sight distance issues and substandard curves and grades throughout the project area. Additional needs included providing consistent and reliable access and travel times and improving connections between established economic assets.

 

Improvement concepts developed during the Feasibility Study for the SR 981 Section Q20 Project included online and offline shifts to modernize the roadway to provide better access or multiple roadway users and meet current roadway standards. As a result, a number of sensitive environmental features present in the project area would need to be considered including private residences, farmland, potential hazardous waste, community facilities, potentially historic property, wetlands, floodplains, and streams; all of which would need to be balanced with project needs and costs.

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HOW WE HELPED

McCormick Taylor managed and led all aspects of the preliminary engineering and final design for the SR 981, Section Q20 project. As such, McCormick Taylor completed the environmental clearance; conducted traffic analyses; led the roadway, structural and stormwater engineering; managed utility coordination and right-of-way acquisition efforts; obtained multiple environmental permits; and facilitated public and agency coordination. Highlights associated with these activities included:

  • Widened roadway from 10’ travel lanes and 2’ shoulders in the existing condition to 12’ travel lanes and 8’ shoulders accommodating bicycle and pedestrian movements with the proposed construction. 
  • Design of three roundabouts to replace existing traditional intersections in order to improve safety, calm traffic, facilitate traffic flow and provide gateway opportunities. 
  • Design of four structures including an off-alignment 98-foot long single-span bridge on integral abutments, two precast concrete box culvert replacements using staged construction and preservation of an existing structure.
  • Coordination with the PA Turnpike Commission to address vertical clearance issues with the Turnpike Bridge over SR 981.
  • Implemented a comprehensive public outreach program that included a project website, a KeyS Committee made up of local stakeholders, and in-person and virtual Public Meetings.
  • Partnered with the Mount Pleasant School District to complete stormwater management (SWM) on the Senior High/ Middle School campus within the same watershed as the project area. These improvements will minimize the amount of SWM required along the project area and address stormwater management and erosion concerns on the school property.
  • Partnered with the Mount Pleasant School District to add Landscape Architecture to the Hecla/ State/ SR 981 Roundabout providing native planting, decorative features, and an internally illuminated sign. This location serves as the main gateway entrance leading to the Mount Pleasant administration building, High School and Middle School.
  • Partnered with Mount Pleasant Township on the design and construction of LED Highway Lighting at the three proposed roundabouts. Lighting the roundabout provides enhanced safety for motorists at night. Additional illumination was provided at pedestrian crossing locations near the football and baseball fields and the park within Norvelt. 
  • Accommodated pedestrians and bicycles with the addition of eight-foot shoulders.
  • Partnered with CalU and the Partners for Fish & Wildlife to mitigate wetland and stream impacts through on-site mitigation and coordinated with the property owner through the Right-of-Way Process to provide sufficient area to accommodate the mitigation site.
  • Coordinated with the US Army Corps of Engineers to obtain authorization for stream and wetland impacts with an Individual Section 404 Permit and PA Department of Environmental Protection Chapter 105 Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit.

RESULTS

PennDOT District 12-0 held a Groundbreaking Ceremony on November 12, 2021 to kick-off construction activities for the SR 981 Section Q20 Project. This is the first of the three Laurel Valley Transportation Improvements Projects (LVTIP) to move to construction. Construction will be completed in 10 phases over three construction seasons from Fall 2021 to Winter 2024. McCormick Taylor will continue working on the project to provide construction consultation services. Additionally, McCormick Taylor is leading the design of the two remaining LVTIP projects, which encompass a total of approximately 11.5 miles between the three projects. These projects along with PennDOT’s recently completed SR 981, Section V10 project, between SR 30 and the airport entrance, represent an investment totaling over $150 million in the SR 981 corridor, the community, and region.

 

To learn more about the LVTIP Projects visit: https://www.laurelvalleyproject.com/

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