Troubles slow Route 51-88 project

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Improvements designed to unclog the Route 51-Route 88 intersection in Overbrook are taking shape, albeit not as fast as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation had hoped.

Crews from the contractor on the $19 million project, Joseph B. Fay Co., have begun building a jug handle that will eventually accommodate left turns from northbound Route 51 to Route 88 and Glenbury Street. On Thursday, they poured concrete for a new bridge that carries the jug handle over Weyman Run.

Five other structurally deficient bridges are being replaced. Traffic signals, lighting and sidewalks will be improved, the ancient signage at the intersection will be replaced, and several traffic cameras will be installed.

Route 51-88 construction: What's next?

Heath Butler, assistant construction engineer, PennDOT District 11, provides an update on (Video by Jon Schmitz; 4/14/2014)

PennDOT had hoped to complete the project by November 2015, but that is now in doubt. "We're working through a lot of utility relocations," said Dan Cessna, PennDOT district executive. "We're likely behind schedule right now."

The next big change for drivers will come in July, when northbound traffic is shifted to the jug handle, which wraps around the Rite Aid pharmacy. Southbound traffic will be shifted to the current northbound lanes. That pattern likely will remain in place through the end of the year, Mr. Cessna said.

The good news: Two lanes of traffic will be maintained in both directions, and drivers will get an idea of how the jug handle will work when the project is completed. It replaces a short left-turn lane that often is overstacked. Other key improvements are a northbound left-turn lane on Route 51 at Stewart Avenue, south of the Route 88 intersection, and a second jug handle for southbound traffic via Fairhaven Road and Stewart Avenue.

Southbound drivers on Route 51 who want to reach St. Norbert Church or the residential areas surrounding it will continue to the jug handle rather than turning left at Ivyglen Street. The jug handle will funnel them to the northbound side.

PennDOT expects the reconfiguration to reduce delays at the intersection, which handles upward of 40,000 vehicles per day, reduce the incidence of rear-end crashes, and improve drainage at the site.

Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at Twitter: @pgtraffic.

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