New bridge cost doubles original estimates


SCRANTON (WOLF) -- It's now been one week since the new Harrison Avenue bridge opened in Scranton, but the work isn't done and the cost for taxpayers continues to rise.

We found out that workers faced several challenges to get the bridge built.

PennDOT's project manager for the Harrison Avenue bridge said he knew the bridge would be expensive when the bid on a project, once listed as $12 million, came in around $18 million. Costs kept going up after that.

"I think this always was a $30 million project," says PennDOT construction project manager Pat McCabe. "They just didn't anticipate that in the beginning. And the taxpayers certainly got good value."

"In the beginning, they had the plans for this bridge and things like that, but then when everything comes together, then getting down to the nitty-gritty and what we really have to do," says Minichi Inc. owner Paula Minichello.

Project manager Tom Bailey says this is the biggest bridge that the Dupont-based Minichi Inc. has worked on, and plans they were handed -- like an idea for platforms up above -- didn't make sense.

"It's physically impossible to drill when you're 40 feet above the area where you need to to drill the holes," says Bailey. "The challenge is to get down in the gorge to construct the piers."

They built access roads to get down there.

"Feasibility of accessing the work was one of the things that was overlooked," says Bailey.

Bailey says the rock in the gorge was also harder than anticipated, so they changed their tools and methods to drill the piers.

To put in girders, their cranes had to avoid overhead power lines, the gorge, and the Central Scranton Expressway, Bailey said. Part of that roadway had to be removed, and there's a railroad down there too.

"The constructability portion of the project was probably not as thoroughly reviewed as it could have been," says Bailey. "But, as a team, PennDOT and the contractor and the design engineer worked together to overcome these items that were probably not completely thought out."

"There was some some things that they didn't anticipate in design, but that's what we do out here in consturction," says McCabe. "This is probably the most challenging site I've encountered in 35 years. The bridge is 140 feet high down into Roaring Brook gorge."

Even with mounting costs, they pressed forward.

"I think that was a kind of a courageous decision on PennDOT's part to do that, because this is a key artery," says McCabe.

PennDOT says the old bridge, built in 1921, is past its design life,and has been labeled structurally deficient, with a sufficiency rating of 2 out of 100. It has been posted with a 15-ton weight limit.

Opening the new bridge is sweeter after all this work.

"It is so awesome. It's awesome," says McCabe.

"It's very rewarding," says Bailey.

The project was once set to be done in July 2017, but may take another year to finish, working through the winter.

"The new bridge is very close to the old bridge," says PennDOT District 4 community relations officer James May. "We have to get the the old bridge down first and then we there's some final work that we need to do there, but we're at the point where we knew the bridge is safe and that we could open it."

As for the old bridge, PennDOT says workers plan to implode the big central span over the water and mechanically deconstruct two smaller spans over the expressway and railroad starting in the spring.

May says some pillars in the old bridge had hollow cores that were then filled with dirt and debris.

The bridge was once proposed to be named for Joe Biden, but is now remaining as the Colonel Frank Duffy Memorial Bridge. A Duffy Park will be put again at the Moosic Street side.

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