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Mansion House Hill work being completed today

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    Route 209 is clear of rocks and is ready to open to traffic. Crews removed 14 dump truck loads to remove the rocks. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published October 19. 2017 08:22AM

A rock removal project initially expected to take three weeks is already wrapping up on Route 209 between Lehighton and Jim Thorpe.

The work will be complete this afternoon, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said.

“The contractor was able to remove the fallen rock and remove other loose rock sooner than anticipated,” PennDOT project manager Calvin Ulshafer said. “They also determined no mesh netting is needed now for the area where they were working.”

Work to clean up the remnants of a Sept. 8 rock slide began last Wednesday and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials expect the Mansion House Hill could be open to unrestricted traffic as soon as Friday.

“All the rock scaling has been done,” PennDOT project manager Calvin Ulshafer said at the site Wednesday. “We got all the loose material off the mountain. All the loose debris is cleaned up. Around 18 loads of rocks have been hauled off site. We will pave the patch tomorrow and get it ready to go.”

A subcontractor working for New Enterprise Stone and Lime Inc. has been working at the site of the slide for the past week, knocking loose any remaining rock and breaking up the rocks on the ground for removal.

A portion of the Mansion House Hill was closed to traffic between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. each weekday.

The timeline, however, was always going to be up in the air, Ulshafer said, due to the unpredictability of what workers would find.

“There was a big unknown and the unknown factor was what was under the rock that we couldn’t see,” he said. “Once the scalers got up there and started moving debris they uncovered that the rock underneath was in good, solid, stable condition and no mesh or any more removal needed to happen.”

PennDOT is still looking to do another project next summer that will further stabilize the rock. Ulshafer called it a more extensive remediation.

“We’re looking at a further stretch of the mountain, where we’ll likely remove more rock scale and put up mesh,” PennDOT spokesman Ron Young said last week.

Despite a few motorists reaching the road closure points and needing to turn around, there were no traffic concerns while the work was completed, Ulshafer said.

“At the end of the day, it worked well,” he said. “At 2 p.m. they were lined up to go up the mountain and at 9 there was really nobody out here so we could shut it down easily.”

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