News: Sullivan Township Wins Road and Bridge Award

April 19, 2016

Ginni Linn
Executive Editor/Print Manager
Office: (717) 763-0930, ext. 127

Bernie Cole
Sullivan Township Chairman
(570) 549-7051

Sullivan Township Wins Statewide Road and Bridge Safety Improvement Award

Sullivan Township in Tioga County was named the bridge corunner-up of the 34th Annual Road and Bridge Safety Improvement Awards, presented at the 94th Annual Educational Conference of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) in Hershey April 17-20, 2016. The conference attracted attendees from every county in Pennsylvania except Philadelphia, which has no townships. Sullivan Township won the award for a bridge replacement project that uses an accelerated construction technique.

PSATS sponsors the statewide Road and Bridge Safety Improvement Contest each year in partnership with the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association (PHIA) and the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to recognize townships for their extensive contributions of time and effort in making roads and bridges safer.

Sullivan Township replaced the one-lane, 1930s-era concrete bridge on Ensminger Road because it was failing due to repeated flooding. The inadequate clearance under the bridge led to debris getting caught and the creek backing up, undermining the concrete.

Shell Appalachia had upgraded parts of Ensminger Road in 2014 to accommodate its trucks used for Marcellus Shale natural gas development. The bridge was a concern for the heavy trucks, and an inspection revealed severe damage to the underside. In addition to the unstable structure, Shell’s engineer also cited concerns about the narrow width of the bridge and the lack of guide rail on the approaches.

“It was just a bad, bad bridge,” Sullivan Township chairman Bernie Cole says. “The waterway was always backing up, and the concrete was cracking.”

Shell offered $125,000 to replace the bridge and provided a highway consultant, Jason Snyder, who proposed the use of a relatively new-to-Pennsylvania bridge construction technique called geosynthetic reinforced soil-integrated bridge system, or GRS-IBS. This method can be done faster with municipal equipment and manpower and for a fraction of the cost of a conventional bridge.

GRS-IBS is a form of accelerated bridge construction that uses alternating layers of compacted granular fill and sheets of geotextile fabric to provide support for the structure. Rather than installing a poured concrete foundation and walls, this method builds up the substructure in a faster, simpler way, similar to making a layer cake.

Over the course of a few weeks, Jason Snyder guided four Sullivan Township public works employees, two employees from Snyder’s home township of North Hopewell in York County, which has constructed two GRS bridges, and two civil engineering interns from Lafayette College in completing the structure.

The new bridge is a two-lane, 80 ton-capacity structure that will easily accommodate Shell’s drilling traffic, Cole says.

“It’s a very nice bridge, and it works beautifully,” he says. “I spent so much time working on it, I feel like I could build one myself.”

Cole says that receiving this award shows that the township is taking care of its roads and its residents.

“The new bridge is an asset to the people of Sullivan Township,” he says. “I have heard nothing but compliments on it. People are thrilled that it is no longer a one-lane ‘turkey path.’ I think we did a great job on it.”

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The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors represents Pennsylvania’s 1,454 townships of the second class and is committed to preserving and strengthening township government and securing greater visibility and involvement for townships in the state and federal political arenas. Townships of the second class cover 95 percent of Pennsylvania’s land mass and represent more residents — 5.5 million — than any other type of political subdivision in the commonwealth.