Key Allentown bridge targeted to open late next year

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In December, Allentown officials marked the start of a long-standing $46 million bridge construction project that late next year would open a major artery into Downtown Allentown. Several months later, construction is forging ahead on the American Parkway Bridge over the Lehigh River.

Once completed, the bridge would offer drivers immediate access to Airport Road and Route 22 but also to Downtown Allentown, where construction of the city’s hockey arena and surrounding mixed-use development is underway.

Preliminary design, right of way acquisition and utility relocation costs are about $14 million, while the construction final design-build bid cost is $32 million, said Mark Geosits, assistant city engineer for Allentown.

About 80 percent of the funding for the design came from the federal government and 20 percent came from local government, said Mike Moore, spokesman for the city.

Bridge construction is 100 percent funded through the federal government, Moore said.

New Enterprise Stone and Lime Co. Inc. of New Enterprise is the construction firm the city hired to build the bridge. HNTB Inc. and McCormick Taylor & Associates prepared the designs while Gannet Fleming Inc. is preparing final design-build plans.

The new bridge, scheduled to be completed in December 2014, will be an architecturally enhanced structure with an art-deco theme and will be a gateway to the Downtown Allentown area, said Mark Geosits, assistant city engineer for Allentown.

The new Lehigh River bridge crossing will link the limited access American Parkway roads that currently exist on both sides of the Lehigh River and also support Coca-Cola Park baseball stadium on the east side of the Lehigh River. Furthermore, the finished bridge will provide access to the new 1-million-square-foot Waterfront development along the west bank of the Lehigh River.

A notable trend for construction projects such as these is the shift from a design-bid-build format to a design-build format to accelerate the overall project from inception to completion, said Geosits. It also allows the contractor to consider alternative materials and designs to provide the most efficient and cost competitive project.

“Design-build helps speed things along in construction,” said Rich Young, city engineer and public works director for Allentown. “As an example, you could have a foundation being built while a superstructure is being designed. We had enough of a design done to be able to get permits from various agencies.”

With a design-bid-build project, a contractor may not be able to take advantage of efficiencies that he may think will work better, said Young.

The concept is fairly new. Within the past two years, the state Department of Transportation established a separate publication for design-build projects, Young said.

Work is progressing on the site, with steel piling work rising out of the river.

“We put that piling up; that’s where the bridge piers will be,” said Eric Jenkins, superintendent for New Enterprise Stone and Lime Co. Inc. “We will get inside those steel pilings with an excavator and then we will pump out all the water that’s in that hole and dig down to whatever excavation is called for.”

Jenkins said the depth could be about 15 feet. The next step would be to pour concrete for the footers and start building the pier.

“Right now, we are getting all our erosion and sediment controls done,” said Jenkins. The company is also installing pipes, digging ditches and next week will start excavating the collector road.

A lot of utility work by power companies KT Power Inc. and Pike Electric Corp., both subsidiaries of PPL, also is underway.

KT is installing 150-foot steel poles along the collector road and will be doing more utility work, including shutting down transmission lines on Dauphin Road in May, said Jenkins. Pike will be replacing all of the wooden utility poles on Dauphin and other nearby streets on both sides of the river, among other work.

“That sets us up for doing abutment work for the corner of American Parkway and Dauphin Street,” Jenkins said.

Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it. Brian also has a strong interest in health and fitness. He works part-time as a personal trainer at Steel Fitness Riverport in Bethlehem and earned his personal fitness trainer certification from World Instructor Training Schools. He loves to run and will be competing in his first half-marathon on Nov. 23 to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

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