EDITORIAL: Better oversight needed on ‘Mt. Rose Ave. mess’

The York Dispatch

We’re certain the powers that be at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation aren’t going out of their way to make life miserable for area motorists.

But, boy, sometimes it sure is hard to tell.

Case in point: The three-years-and-running Mount Rose Avenue/Interstate 83 interchange project.

The work includes reconstruction and widening of a 1.3-mile section of the interstate and reconfiguration of the Exit 18 interchange ramps for Mount Rose Avenue. These will no doubt be welcome amenities if humans are still driving cars by the time the project is finished.

The initial completion date was two months ago, but it came and went with no end in sight. PennDOT now estimates work could stretch well into 2020.

The price tag is going up, too. Budgeted at $58.3 million, work is now estimated at $57.9 million. That’s not an eye-popping overrun, but the contractor, Maryland-based Cherry Hill Construction Inc., says more money will be needed. Negotiations are underway.

None of which is good news for frustrated commuters forced to negotiate the detours and delays the project has caused. Or for business owners and residents in the area.

"Shame on PennDOT for the Mt. Rose Ave. mess!” reads a sign outside K.D. Rosengrant Building & Remodeling on Mount Rose Avenue.

Among the apparent reasons for the cost overruns and missed deadline: Contractor Cherry Hill has had to correct completed portions of the project — curbing and paving on Haines Road in Springettsbury Township, for example — because they haven’t met state specifications.

Nearby businesses and residents continue to show their frustration with PennDOT and the I-83 Mount Rose Avenue construction project. (Submitted)

Surprisingly, the PennDOT response to the below-par work has been little more than a shrug.

More:'I'm livid': Lawmakers seek public meeting on overdue, over-budget Mt. Rose/I-83 project

More:Contractor wants more time, money for I-83 Mount Rose project

“Not everybody's perfect,” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Greg Penny told the Dispatch’s Jana Benscoter, adding that errors are “all part of the process.” He wouldn’t say how many corrections, in total, Cherry Hill has had to make.

If it were us, and we were finding unacceptable work in an already-overdue $58 million project, we’d be a little less forgiving and a little more demanding.

Fortunately, it appears a pair of York County lawmakers are ready to assert the kind of pressure PennDOT has not publicly demonstrated. Reps. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, and Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, are seeking a public meeting to get answers from Cherry Hill.

It’s unfortunate they have to step in and do PennDOT’s job but there needs to be accountability, given that the work may stretch on for another 18 months and who knows how many more millions of dollars.

Project delays aren’t unique under PennDOT leadership. A rapid bridge repair in Elizabeth Township last year took more than twice as long as projected. And it is not the first time consideration for motorists seems to have been an afterthought. Recall the nearly half-hour detour PennDOT came up with in 2015 as part of the otherwise efficiently run project to replace the Route 581 bride near the York Split in LeMoyne.

Regardless of the outcome of any public meetings on the “Mt. Rose Ave. mess,” PennDOT needs to demonstrate more immediacy and better oversight going forward. Years-long projects that cost taxpayers millions of dollars, businesses lost revenue and motorists untold hours idling in traffic need to be run by an agency that, unlike those stranded drivers, doesn’t sit idly by as contractors fail to meet their obligations.