With 45 local employees involved in building bridges over the Lehigh River and Lehigh Canal, the Pennsylvania Turnpike project is having a favorable economic impact on the local area.

Jeff Wendel, project manager of Urban Engineers, Inc., said that most of the staff on this project are mostly local people, many from the Lehighton area, working for a local company and are hopefully spending money and using services in the local area.

"The benefit to this is these employees get paid and the ripple effect is creating jobs," he said. "It does have positive effects on the local economy."

He said that 15 to 20 more workers will soon will be added to the workforce as soon as the weather breaks.

Wendel proudly updated members of the Lehighton Area Council of the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce on the construction progress.

Wendel noted that approximately 80 percent of the constuction is done at the Pohopoco bridge site and that this part of the project should be completed in about nine months. He added that about $38 million of the orginal $102 million has been expended.

He said that crews are completing pouring the coindrical concrete stems for the northbound and southbound spans. The stems will support the "T" shaped pier caps which will finish each column. They will support the pre-stressed concrete beams and reinforced concrete decks which will be constructed atop the piers.

About 80 percent of the supports are now fully constructed for the Pohopoco Creek bridges. Once the piers are capped – work that is expected to be completed in late spring – crews will begin setting the first of 70 pre-stressed concrete deck beams atop the caps. The new bridges' riding surfaces, or concrete decks, will then be built atop the beams.

Wendel added that northbound abutments also are under construction for the new Lehigh River and Canal crossings. Work on the southbound abutments for those bridges will begin when excavation finishes on the rock wall above the river's southern bank. Thousands of tons of rock already have been excavated and hauled since last July to expand the northbound shoulder.

Wendel noted that this process to remove the rock is taking a little longer than anticipated.

He noted that northbound traffic has been shifted slightly to the east onto that expanded shoulder and the southbound lanes were then shifted to the east to provide a work area for construction of the tie-ins for the new bridges, which are being built on new alignments immediately upstream of the existing bridges.

At the northern end of the Turnpike work zone, Wendel said that construction continues on a retaining wall that will support the roadway where it shifts to the west to meet the new alignment approaching the new Pohopoco Creek bridges.

He said that the project is presently in the second phase. Sometime in mid 2011, the project will slip into the third phase, when the southbound bridges will be completed and traffic will be routed on the new bridges.

In the fall of 2011, traffic will begin using the northbound bridges and sometime between the winter of 2011 and the spring of 2012, the old bridges will be demolished. In the summer/fall of 2012, the project will be completed, which includes wetlands and environmental mitigation.

"We have to replace the wetlands which were disturbed by the construction," said Wendel. "That will be the last part of the project."