Completion of a $1.7 million State Highway Administration project to improve the service road between the lanes of Route 40 West (South Philadelphia Boulevard) and Aberdeen businesses along that road has been delayed until at least the spring of 2015, Aberdeen's city manager said Monday.
City Manager Doug Miller told Mayor Mike Bennett and city council members during a work session that the project, originally slated to be finished last month, has won't be done until May of 2015. The work started in July 2013.
Miller said the project involves creating a "safe service road" with improvements such as a barrier between Route 40 and the service road from West Bel Air Avenue to Robinson Avenue, plus a bicycle lane, replacing the existing sidewalks and enhancing and enlarging the stormwater management system to avoid flooding that would affect the businesses.
Bennett asked how much of the cost is being borne by the city. Miller replied that the state is covering the majority of the cost, but the city has "some financial responsibility" for the relocation of water and sewer lines.
SHA officials expected the project to be completed this summer, according to a prior news release provided Tuesday by spokesman David Buck.
The project includes patching of the pavement, resurfacing and repairs to the street, new ramps and sidewalks, building the median between the service road and highway, relocation of water lines, stormwater improvements and new road lines and signs, according to the release.
Buck noted the harsh weather the past winter delayed many SHA projects that started in 2013, plus the Aberdeen project was also hampered by "significant underground utility conflicts."
"While digging, we encountered both a sewer line and a gas line that were not in locations we anticipated," he wrote in an email.
Buck explained that finding utilities in unexpected locations meant other aspects of the project had to be redesigned, such as drainage inlets.
"We still expect the majority of the project to be done by the end of the year with the final paving and maybe other minor work to be complete spring 2015," he said.
Buck said more than 33,600 vehicles use that section of highway each day.
Bright orange traffic barrels, along with portions of a concrete barrier, could be seen along the length of the work area Monday evening. The barrier has been built along the path of the white lines and a grassy median that previously separated the two lanes of the highway and the service road.
A slew of restaurants and retail businesses are along that half-mile section of South Philadelphia Boulevard, including McDonald's, Domino's Pizza, AutoZone, Saxon's Diamond Center and Pat's Select Pizza & Grill.
Plumes of white dust trailed behind cars as drivers cruised along the section of service road between Plater Street and Warren Street.
"As far as the customers, it hasn't really affected them, but I would say more the pedestrians," Douglas Gordon, a manager at the McDonald's at Warren and South Philadelphia Boulevard, said of the dust.
Gordon said the vehicle traffic has been "moving freely" in and out of the restaurant property since the project began, and he praised officials for giving advance notice of when an exit had to be blocked for construction work.
"It's been regular," Gordon said of business. "It hasn't really affected us too much."
Mesut Teker, manager of the Pat's restaurant, which has been on South Philadelphia Boulevard for 12 years and went through extensive renovations earlier this year, said customers are encouraged to enter the service road at West Bel Air Avenue and drive west to the restaurant, rather than try to get to the parking lot from Route 40 during construction.
"They're going to have to drive around the [traffic] cones, so it's just kind of scary if a construction worker has to be there," Teker explained.
"With a 40-foot wide 'shoulder area,' there was little guidance as to where pedestrians or motorists should be in order for everyone to travel safely," Buck explained in a follow-up email Wednesday. "By installing the median, we are providing a space for pedestrian refuge, as well as separating the local traffic from the through traffic along U.S. 40, which will reduce conflict points."