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PennDOT details 10-month rock slide repair

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    Michael McGuire, senior project manager at Gannett Fleming, hosted a public question-and-answer period concerning the Route 209 Mansion House Hill Rock Slide Project at the Mahoning Township municipal building on Wednesday night, followed by an address to the board of supervisors. Supervisor Bruce Steigerwalt, at right, asks McGuire about drainage issues. Scan this picture with the Prindeo app to see a video of McGuire explaining the project to the board. BRIAN W. MYSZKOWSKI/TIMES NEWS

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    Michael McGuire, senior project manager at Gannett Fleming, addresses questions from citizens about the upcoming Route 209 Mansion House Hill Rock Slide Project at the Mahoning Township municipal building.

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Published March 01. 2018 12:31PM


Concerned residents packed the Mahoning Township municipal building Wednesday night to get the details on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s upcoming Route 209 Mansion House Hill Rock Slide Project.

The $3 million project will include the removal of loose rocks from Flagstaff Mountain between Jim Thorpe and Lehighton, the improvement of a retaining wall and shoulder and the installation of netting.

Michael McGuire, senior project engineer at Gannett Fleming, hosted the public question-and-answer session before the evening’s regularly scheduled meeting, and addressed the supervisors during their meeting.

“It’s a safety-driven project. We’re not necessarily changing the footprint of the road; we’re dealing with ice, rock and lumber that falls on the road,” McGuire said.

“It’s caused some recent problems. The idea is to mitigate that, and reduce the potential for that for a half-mile stretch from the Jim Thorpe borough line up to the top of where the road levels out and comes down to two lanes on Flagstaff Mountain,” McGuire said.

Some attendees at the question-and-answer session expressed concern that road closures during the cleanup could reduce visitors to Jim Thorpe, cutting down foot traffic for local businesses.

“We’re not looking to isolate Jim Thorpe as far as utilities, traffic or anything goes,” McGuire said.

Others were quite vocal about getting the area around the Mansion House in better shape, claiming that visitors would come to the town no matter what, and residents would find alternate routes to work.

“That’s the goal,” McGuire said.

According to McGuire’s estimates, the project will likely take 10 months, though road access will not be completely restricted for the whole time.

“We’re talking about when we’re bring rock down, we’re closing between 9 and 2, and potentially at night. We don’t need to do that for the whole 10 months, That’s just for the first stage when we’re bringing rock down and dealing with anchors. When we’re dealing with the retaining wall, we’re keeping two lanes open all the time and doing the work behind barriers. We have three lanes to work with. We’ll take one and leave the other two,” McGuire said.

Drainage repairs along the shoulder up against the rock face will be started in the spring, with one lane closed.

Work will be conducted four to five days a week, and halt on weekends and holidays.

Closures will likely be more prominent during the first five to six months.

Lumber and loose rock will be cleared up first, after which netting will be installed in several areas. Installation of bolts and ties, along with simple spot repairs, will follow.

“Once we’re done with that, we should be — emphasis on should — done with dealing with full closures, and just be dealing with one lane at a time,” McGuire said.

Tree removal will be kept at a minimum, with roots left in place. McGuire said that trees would only be removed from the areas where loose rock has to be pulled or anchors have to be installed.

McGuire’s presentation to the Mahoning Township board of supervisors touched on several similar topics, including the general scope of the project.

“Hopefully not too much later this year, we will be working on the section of Route 209 from the Jim Thorpe/Mahoning line, up Flagstaff Mountain all in Mahoning Township, up to where the three lanes come down to two and the road levels off up at the top,” McGuire said to the board members.

McGuire said that this portion of the project would take between four to six months, followed by some work on the retaining wall on the river side and the rebuilding of the shoulder.

“We’re going to basically put a concrete gutter to provide more capacity for water, to have a more consistent shoulder in there, and we’re going to put some base drainage that will hopefully prevent water from coming under the wall and causing even more problems,” McGuire said.

Supervisor Bob Slaw asked why guiderails were not being installed along the whole length of the rock retaining wall on the riverside

“There’s obviously bad sections in there, and it’s below the height for a normal barrier for a guardrail,” Slaw said.

McGuire explained that some areas along that section could be subject to more damage if guiderail posts are installed, though a second project is being planned for more substantial improvements to the wall.

Supervisor Bruce Steigerwalt expressed concern over water traveling down the rock face toward the railroad bed, where new freeze and thaw problems could begin, possibly resulting in more debris issues.

“Why not take it all the way down the mountain and then discharge it right to the river?” Steigerwalt said.

McGuire explained that such a measure would require a large culvert line, though Steigerwalt remained apprehensive, saying that excessive water discharged form pipes over an extended period of time could cause problems similar to what has been happening.

“Right now, the intention is to put it back the way it was going, but I hear what you’re saying,” McGuire responded.

McGuire expects the project to begin sometime this year, after a right of way issue with the work area is resolved.



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