You’ve seen the orange cones and the bulldozers moving around earth in the area for months, but the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's plans to add new northbound and southbound on-ramps leading from Route 228 to Interstate 79 are really about to ramp up.
“It’s going to result in more efficient travel through the area and less congestion,” said Mark Rozich, project manager for PennDOT District 10.
The $14.78 PennDOT project eliminates two turning movements from Route 228 to I-79, improving access for motorists.
Included in the construction are a new northbound on-ramp, a new southbound loop ramp and the reconstruction of the southbound off-ramp at the interchange of I-79 and Route 228.
Currently, westbound drivers on Route 228 who want to get on I-79 must turn left across oncoming traffic to get to the interstate’s onramps. While they’re making those lefts, the through traffic on 228 is held back waiting—resulting in a traffic tangle.
By adding the new ramps, the hope is there will be more green time for drivers.
When complete, there will be three eastbound lanes and three westbound lanes, plus auxiliary lanes, on Route 228 between Dutilh Road and Cranberry Woods Drive, Rozich said. Right now, there are two lanes in each direction in that area.
Since December, excavation work, including clearing trees and buildings from the area where the new ramps will be located, has been taking place off the shoulder of Route 228.
Only one structure, a former dental office on Mars Road, remains standing. PennDOT currently is using that building, formerly Cranberry Center Dental Services, as a field office.
While the earthwork has not affected motorists, the upcoming construction will.
Phase 1 of the six-phase project begins Monday, March 11. Rozich said there would be lane restrictions taking place at night during the first phase while crews remove the median at the center of Route 228 and pave it in anticipation of shifting traffic lanes of during the project.
Traffic will go down to one lane in each direction between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. for at least a week, Rozich said. There will be flaggers or orange barrels in the area to help direct traffic. The lanes will fully reopen to traffic in the daylight.
“Pretty much anything on Route 228 affecting the traveling public is going to be done at night,” Rozich said.
McElroy Road, located off Route 228 near the Cranberry Crossroads retail center, also will be closed permanently to traffic as soon as possible, Rozich said. In its place, motorists will use the new Cranberry Springs Drive, which cuts through Cranberry Crossroads (home to the new Dick’s Sporting Goods) to connect with Mars Crider Road.
The new ramps will be worked throughout the project, Rozich said. The construction of the ramps, which are located off Route 228 and I-79, are not expected to impact motorists.
Rozich did warn there would be about a month in Phase 5 of the project, which is tentatively set to take place in September, where only two lanes of Route 228 would be open to traffic at all times.
“That’s going to be a month of frustrating times for everyone on 228,” he said.
The targeted completion date for the new ramps is October 2014. Rozich said he hopes to have construction finished before that time.
Freedom Road Improvements
Improvements to Freedom Road also are being explored as part of the project.
Rozich said PennDOT plans to add an additional left turning lane from Freedom Road to Route 19 North, bringing the total number of lanes on Freedom Road where it intersects with Route 19 and Route 228 to five. Of those, two would be left turn lanes, two would be straight lanes connecting to Route 228 and one would be a right turn onto Route 19 South, Rozich said.
He added the project would be a small amount of work that results in a huge improvement at the intersection.
The new left turning lane for Freedom Road would begin near where the former Sheetz gas station and convenience store was located, he said.
Work on the Freedom Road lane addition could begin in late 2013, near the end of when construction is scheduled to be finished on the new ramps to I-79.
Swank Construction Company of New Kensington is performing the work.
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