Preliminary engineering includes studies about traffic, safety, and the environment and the design of alternatives for the project. The information collected helps PennDOT make decisions about what is needed to improve the transportation facility and how they can minimize impacts to the public and the environment. Preliminary engineering ends with the selection of an alternative to advance into final design. Many of the tasks may occur at the same time.
PennDOT studies growth trends, causes of congestion, the use of transit, and the pathways followed by bicycles and pedestrians to better understand travel patterns. PennDOT studies the number and types of vehicles and how they move through the project area. Traffic studies help determine how many lanes the roadway should be and if interchanges should be added, modified or moved to help get people to where they want to be more efficiently.
About the same time traffic study data are being gathered, surveyors are in the field to map the location of existing features in the project area, such as buildings, utilities, wooded areas, wells, roadways, and ground elevations. Survey data are key to accuracy during design and construction.
The project design must demonstrate how impacts to sensitive resources will be avoided or minimized, or where mitigation will be provided for impacts that are unavoidable. PennDOT’s goal is to avoid or minimize impacts when possible. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and PennDOT must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental regulations. These require that FHWA and PennDOT think through the effects that the project will have on the human and natural environment, balanced with both present and future transportation needs. Mitigation commitments are steps that FHWA and PennDOT take to reduce the impact they have on the environment and other resources.
Obtaining public input on the project and its impacts is an essential part of the environmental process. Environmental resource topics FHWA and PennDOT consider include natural resources, cultural resources, socioeconomic resources, air quality, noise, and how the project will impact the look and feel of the area and any design elements that should be included to make the project fit better in the surrounding area.Learn more at PennDOT.gov
PennDOT must identify all natural resources located within and adjacent to the project area so that plans can be made to avoid, minimize, or mitigate project impacts. FHWA and PennDOT must follow federal and state requirements for the identification of natural resources such as endangered species, streams, wetlands and a broad range of other natural resources.Learn more at PennDOT.gov
PennDOT must identify and consider what effect the project may have on historic and archaeological resources within and adjacent to the project area. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and other preservation laws require that FHWA and PennDOT identify historic buildings, sites, structures, objects or districts and archaeological resources in the ground that are determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places or are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.Learn more at PennDOT.gov
Understanding the potential impacts a project could have on the surrounding community is important. Important facts about businesses, communities, income, housing, employment, education, culture, language, and other topics are analyzed to understand how the project could affect its surroundings. Land-use and the locations of community facilities, such as parks, schools, and hospitals are also studied.Learn more at PennDOT.gov
PennDOT studies if the proposed project will affect the quality of the air. In addition, they also study whether noise will negatively impact the quality of life of those exposed to it. Technical reports for both air quality and noise, including summary findings and potential recommendations, will be available once completed.Learn more about Air Quality Learn more about Noise Impacts
PennDOT welcomes public input on the proposed project. Public forums may include questionnaires, educational presentations, informational videos, and other resources designed to enhance the public’s understanding of the project and how to participate in the process. Public meetings also provide the opportunity for an open and timely exchange of important information between PennDOT and the public.
Specific to the I-83 projects, a public meeting is planned for the fall of 2018 – stay tuned!
Special purpose meetings are held with a targeted audience or a specific organization to exchange information or keep a potential affected community informed over the course of the project. PennDOT also begins early coordination with agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and others to review the resources present within the project area and discuss the impacts an alternative may have on those resources. This coordination continues through all phases of the project development process, including construction.
As part of the I-83 projects, some special purpose meetings have already occurred and others are planned for the future. Meetings have been held with the municipalities in the study area, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Central Dauphin School District, Capital Area Transit, and the Harrisburg Mall. Additional meetings will be held with neighborhood groups, emergency service providers, and others. PennDOT will also be reaching out to other agencies in order to make sure the project is in compliance with the regulations of the PA Department of Environmental Protection, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others.
Even when a PennDOT project’s purpose and needs primarily focus on vehicles, the project will also consider ways to improve transportation for all modes, including biking, walking, and using public transit. Projects will look at how improvements for bikes, pedestrians, and buses can be incorporated to allow for safer and more efficient travel.
For the I-83 projects, this may include improvements to the streets that cross I-83.
This plan uses data from the existing project area to start to design what the new project will look like. Computer-aided drawing and visualization tools are used to locate existing and add new design features to show what the new project will look like when it is built, and how impacts will be minimized.
Environmental documentation prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is completed by PennDOT. Environmental review and approval is granted by FHWA before the project enters into final design. The documentation addresses potential environmental, social, cultural, and economic impacts of a proposed project and how FHWA and PennDOT will avoid, minimize, or mitigate for impacts or will enhance the community that is impacted. In this document, the preferred alternative (or where the roads or intersections are going to be located) is selected by considering all information gathered and analyzed during preliminary engineering. The associated preliminary engineering plan of the selected alternative will be the starting point for final design.Learn more at PennDOT.gov
During final design, the selected project alternative design plans are refined at a level of detail necessary for accurate construction of the project and associated mitigation elements. Many of the tasks we will discuss may take place at the same time.
PennDOT creates detailed design drawings of the roadway, bridges and stormwater management facilities. This includes setting the exact locations where the road and bridges will be built, what areas will be affected by the construction, and a plan for collecting rain water on the roads and surrounding area.
Mitigation and follow-through on commitments are PennDOT’s means to avoid or minimize the environmental impacts resulting from a project. First, PennDOT will consider ways to avoid environmental impacts. If that is not possible, PennDOT will then try and lessen the impact. If the impact cannot be avoided, PennDOT will compensate for the unavoidable impacts. Environmental resources can include wetlands, streams, historic or archaeological resources, community resources, parks, air quality or noise. An example of a commitment is the need to create a new wetland to replace those that are impacted by construction. Another example is the addition of landscaping to minimize the visual impact of a roadway. These commitments are discussed and agreed upon with the agencies as discussed in the Agency and Stakeholder steps and are tracked through to the end of construction.
PennDOT continues to meet with the public and groups such as businesses, emergency service providers, school districts, and municipalities as necessary during final design to keep them informed of the project’s progress. Signing plans will be used to ensure drivers know how to access businesses during construction. The plans for the type of sign and location of signs will be coordinated with the impacted businesses. If for some reason significant design changes occur, PennDOT may ask for public feedback on specific design elements.
If Federal and State noise abatement criteria are met, noise walls will be recommended as part of the project to mitigate the sound of loud traffic. In those areas that satisfy the criteria, local residents and businesses will be contacted for input, coordination, and desires for noise walls. The noise abatement criteria is summarized below:
Where warranted, noise mitigation, often in the form of noise barriers, is evaluated to determine if each barrier meets pre-determined feasibility and reasonableness criteria.
PennDOT must develop a plan for managing traffic during construction. They must finalize their plan for changes to traffic such as road closures, detours, lane changes, speed limit reduction, etc. in advance of the start of construction activity. Accommodations must also be made for pedestrians and bicyclists during construction.
With some project improvements, it is not possible to avoid impacts to homes and business. In these cases, PennDOT will negotiate the acquisition of property located within the required right-of-way—that is, the area where the road will be built or is needed for construction and/or maintenance. PennDOT provides relocation assistance to those whose property is acquired.
Utility lines such as power, sewer, cable, fiber optic, and others can be found overhead and underground in a project area. PennDOT coordinates with utility companies to determine if utilities may need to be relocated, and to avoid any disruption of services due to the project. The identification of the utilities and initial coordination with the utility companies begins during preliminary engineering, but continues into final design. More detailed discussions about utility relocation and agreements between PennDOT and the utility company are prepared during final design.
Many permits from local, state, and/or federal agencies are required in order to construct the project. PennDOT must get all required permits from agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, PA Department of Environmental Protection or a County Conservation District before any construction can begin. Permits may include waterway/wetland encroachment, permanent and temporary stormwater management, floodplain, and agreements with municipalities regarding traffic signals, lighting, etc. These permits and their requirements are continually monitored by PennDOT and coordinated with the agencies throughout construction to ensure they are in compliance.
PennDOT must complete many steps, such as obtaining environmental clearance and environmental permits, acquiring properties necessary for the project, utility and railroad clearance, and receiving authorization from various entities within PennDOT and the FHWA, before construction can begin. They are committed to creating a safe construction zone for a project that minimizes impacts to the environment, the people around it, and the workers who will build the project. Once construction is complete, the project will benefit all those who use the transportation system. For large projects, PennDOT completes the construction under multiple contracts.
Let's take a cruise and learn about some of the key project activities underway or planned for the I-83 East Shore Section 2 and Section 3 projects. Buckle up, and let's go!
Instructions: To move around the site, use the round arrow icons on the right and left sides of the screen. The right arrow moves you forward; the left will move you backward. Speed ahead by clicking on an icon several spaces in front of or behind your current position.