Rumble strips on I-99 removed during roadwork

If you’ve driven on I-99 between 17th Street and Bellwood recently, you may have noticed that workers have paved the periodic rumble strips on the berm with asphalt, nullifying their wake-up function for sleepy drivers who’ve veered off the highway.

They have unrumbled the strips as part of a $30 million replacement of problem concrete slabs, followed by asphalt overlay between 17th Street and Grazierville — plus overlay only to the Bald Eagle interchange, according to District 9 Executive Tom Prestash.

The slabs are being replaced one lane at a time on each side of the highway, and drivers need to go onto the berm for worker safety as that happens, according to Prestash.

The asphalt on the rumble strips keeps their tires from hammering over the strips at 55 mph, he said.

PennDOT is doing the maintenance work to get another 15 to 20 years out of the highway, according to Prestash.

Inspectors noticed joint failures, and everyone who drives that stretch has felt the “thump, thump” when they go over slabs that have settled, he said.

The maintenance work is only one-fourth or one-fifth as expensive as rebuilding the highway, which — when maintenance is neglected — can become necessary far sooner than otherwise, Prestash said.

Some of the problem slabs being replaced may be the same ones that were poured about a decade ago in a maintenance project, he said.

Asked whether there were any issues with earlier work on the highway — there was talk of that at a local government agency meeting Wednesday — Prestash mentioned subgrade material called OGS placed for the original job in the early 1990s.

PennDOT doesn’t use OGS anymore, because it found there can be settling problems, Prestash said.

But the department can’t blame the need for the current project on OGS, Prestash said.

The timing of the current work is actually not atypical, he said. After all, the original construction occurred 25 years ago, although people in the area still think of the highway as new, he said.

Instead of OGS, PennDOT now uses a base comprised of more “angular” pieces that when placed grade more densely but are still porous enough to drain, said Brad Brumbaugh, assistant district executive for construction.

Workers will install new rumble strips in the berm after the overlay, Prestash said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.