The beautiful and rustic countryside of Tioga County in Pennsylvania is home to three state parks, two national parks, and seven lakes. The area features the Pine Creek Gorge, a 50-mile-long chasm some call the “Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.” However, much of this area in north central Pennsylvania has long been isolated from the rest of the state.

Outsiders looking to partake in the fantastic offerings of year-round recreation have struggled with traveling to and from Tioga County. The only main thoroughfares are Interstate 80, 60 miles to the south, and the future Interstate 86, 20 miles north. Connecting these two is U.S. Route 15, a two-lane highway. While U.S. Route 15 is a pleasant and scenic drive, it causes major headaches with congestion and bottlenecks for drivers.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Penn-DOT) said that improving the road would better ease congestion. The new four-lane highway would direct traffic into Pennsylvania, open the center of the state for additional commerce, and create a windfall for the local economy. PennDOT District 3, which is overseeing the project, uses the most concrete pipe of any PennDOT district.

Project specifications

The last six miles of the project near the New York State line were started in 2004. The $115 million project included grading and drainage for the new four-lane highway, removing 3.8 million cubic yards of earth and rock and a township road, mitigating two acres of wetlands, and diverting two streams.

Although the streams were small, they were vulnerable to heavy rain and substantial snowfall, necessitating hydraulic solutions without affecting the environment. The key was to build a positive projecting embankment and place the streams 60 feet under the finished roadway.

“Reinforced concrete pipe (RCP) was the foundation for this project,” says Lance Ridall, PennDOT's project manager. “The Northeast Pipe Group added water management know-how in creating a cutting-edge environmentally sound solution.”

Cayuga and Kerr Concrete Pipe, sister companies that make up the Northeast Pipe Group of Oldcastle Materials, have designed and manufactured pipe for many projects with special conditions. This is the tenth PennDOT project involving special design, heavy wall RCP made under the Pennsylvania Installation Direct Design (PAIDD) guidelines.

The projecting embankment required 15,000 feet of reinforced concrete pipe. Engineers also needed to consider geological shifts that loosened shale and bedrock, and they had to deal with the various bogs hidden beneath the ground that could cause additional settling problems. They also could not overlook the possibility of landslides.

“The amount of earth moved on this project was astounding,” says Debbie Loomis-Major, administrative manager for Cayuga Concrete Pipe. “We literally cut through mountains.”

The Northeast Pipe Group includes three Cayuga locations in Pennsylvania: New Britain, Croydon and Montrose; and two Kerr sites in New Jersey: Farmingdale and Folsom.