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Turnpike project

Published July 20. 2011 05:02PM

Maybe it's old fashioned to think that a government agency should only start construction on a project that it intends to work on until it's finished - not stop the construction and then resume it years later.

That's what's happening along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Penn Forest Township.

A new EZ Pass interchange is planned for Route 903 from the 'pike. Work on this new interchange began in mid-2008.

But the work came to a halt. One reason is that the Turnpike Commission hasn't obtained the approvals to fill 3.598 acres of wetlands and .027 acre of open water.

Why would physical work begin on a new interchange three years before such approval is given? Since comments are being solicited by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we assume there's a possibility that the project won't be approved.

If all goes according to plans, the new interchange is expected to open in 2013.

It is hard to comprehend why physical work began so far in advance. Certainly the work wasn't started before engineering and planning occurred. And, if the Corps of Engineers responds, could a change be mandated in the planning phase? Could this possibly mean the work done in 2008 was a waste of money?

This isn't opposition to the project. It's just questioning the method of the construction phase. You wouldn't dig the foundation for a home you're building and wait years to do the remainder of the construction.

The Turnpike Commission generally has quality construction projects. We're sure the EZ Pass ramp will be done right.

It's just that it seems a waste of time and money starting construction and then waiting years to finish it.

Incidentally, the new interchange was originally proposed in 1985 butthe Turnpike Commission felt there wouldn't be enough people using it to justify such construction.

Once planning occurred and the construction began, the initial date for completion was to be Memorial Day 2012.

The Commission says the environmental issues are causing the delay. The truth is, the commission caused the delays itself by not getting the proper approvals before construction started.

By Ron Gower

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