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PennDOT: Work to resume at 'critical' Mount Rose interchange

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Construction progress is crawling along on the Mount Rose Avenue, Interstate 83 junction, Wednesday, February 26, 2020. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

The Mount Rose interchange project has been deemed critical by the state Department of Transportation, and work will resume despite Gov. Tom Wolf's order last month halting construction projects.

The project on Interstate 83, along with work at Exit 4 to create a converging diamond interchange, was included in 61-project list of "emergency and critical" projects supplied by PennDOT on Thursday. 

"They're very important projects," said spokesman Dave Thompson. "They're in areas that see a lot of traffic volume. They've been going on for a while, and it's important just for that corridor to get those projects completed."

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Work at the two locations will resume once contractors are able to "put appropriate safety measures in place and deploy work crews and equipment," Thompson said.

Wolf initially ordered all PennDOT projects to come to a halt on March 17, as cases of the coronavirus in the state showed no signs of slowing.

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By Sunday, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania had reached 11,510.

York County had 27 new cases Sunday, bringing the total to 171. The county  has had one death, which occurred last week at UPMC Hanover Hospital.

PennDOT permitting the select group of projects to resume came amid mounting pressure from GOP lawmakers to lift Wolf's restrictions on businesses.

Legislation sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, would permit all public and private construction to continue as long as companies "adhere to mitigation measures set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

The legislation has amassed nearly 100 co-sponsors and is expected to come up for a vote in the House State Government Committee within days.

Mount Rose project: Mount Rose had perhaps been the most infamous large-scale construction project in York County before Wolf's order. It began in 2015 and is now nearly two years behind schedule.

Cherry Hill Construction, the contractor, originally bid $58.3 million for the work. The cost has now passed $60 million, and Cherry Hill has been fined more than $7 million by the state.

The company late last year filed a claim against the state Department of Transportation with the state Board of Claims, a quasi-judicial agency settling contract disputes. 

The company alleged PennDOT had breached its contract and failed to "take seriously" problems at the work site. It had last anticipated a late 2020 deadline.

Cherry Hill is seeking $24.2 million in damages and a 598-day extension for the project, which was supposed to be completed in June 2018. But the completion date has continued to backslide. 

In its response in January, PennDOT countered that Cherry Hill is at fault for the delays. 

A trial has not yet taken place, and a final decision on the case won't be made "for a considerable time," said PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell.

Exit 4 project: The work at Exit 4 — the Shrewsbury exit — has been less controversial, with the project coming in at $29.9 million. The project, which began last year, is set to be completed in the summer of 2021.

The diverging diamond interchange, also called a double crossover, is expected to relieve congestion at Exit 4 and improve safety. 

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.