EDITORIAL: Just finish the Mount Rose project already

York Dispatch Editorial Board
The intersection of Mount Rose Avenue and Haines Road facing north in Springettsbury Township, Saturday, March 20, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Let's put this in perspective.

It took seven years for NASA to go from John Glenn orbiting the Earth to Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. 

So far, Cherry Hill Construction has taken six years to rebuild the Interstate 83 interchange at Mount Rose Avenue. It isn't finished yet.

Back in April 2015, the prospect of having three years of construction to completely reconfigure the exit and some nearby roads seemed daunting, but it seemed worth the time and the $58.3 million price put on the project by Cherry Hill Construction to eventually eliminate the daily traffic backups at the exit.

Wouldn't it be great to not have to turn left to get onto or off of the interstate? Wouldn't it be worth a temporary inconvenience to eliminate those lines of traffic on Mount Rose, Haines Road and all the surrounding roads?

We were so naive.

More:Two weeks before deadline, lawmaker says it would be 'a miracle' if Mount Rose/I-83 project wraps by then

Six years later, with the project about $2 million over budget and the contractor subjected to $15.6 million in late fees, the latest deadline to finish the work is May 11, less than two weeks away.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says there's no reason why the work won't be done by the deadline. Cherry Hill Construction says they can "deliver the project in 90 days" after approval for a barrier installation and paving is granted, according to a statement provided by parent-company Tutor Perini.

So close. So, so close. And yet another deadline will be missed.

Cherry Hill and PennDOT have been going back and forth over these final pieces of the project since at least October. Cherry Hill submitted a fourth revision of the pavement proposal to finish grading on I-83 on April 3.

"To date, grades have still not been approved by PennDOT to allow CHC to complete the barrier wall installation and place the wearing course on I-83," the statement from Tutor Perini reads.

On Wednesday, PennDOT spokesperson Alexis Campbell said the final roadway grades were given to the contractor at the time of bidding.

"The contractor does not need any additional 'approval' from PennDOT before it can proceed with doing so," she said via email. "The contractor needs to complete the remaining work on the project."

It's a stalemate, a standoff with York County motorists in the middle.

The contractor insists it needs permission from PennDOT to continue and finish the work. PennDOT says permission was given six years ago and won't be given again. 

"I'm not a civil engineer, but I drive up and down that road every day," state Sen. Kristen Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, said Wednesday. "And when I look at the work that needs to be done, I don't see a May 11, 2021, finish date plausible."

Ask anyone who drives there and they will agree with Phillips-Hill: There's no way this project will be finished in two weeks, no matter how many times PennDOT stamps its foot and says it will. Barriers and paving take a certain amount of time, and two weeks simply won't do it.

These two entities, the contractor and the state agency, are holding hostage anyone who drives on I-83 in York County or who tries to go between the east side of the county and the west, not to mention the poor people who live close to the intersection or who have been trying to run businesses in an area most Yorkers have been avoiding as much as possible for six years.

There's no reason for this stalemate. People who can make decisions for PennDOT and Cherry Hill just need to put aside the blame game for now and clean up the mess already. Surely pushing the deadline back another 90 days and actually completing the project is better than continuing the "Give us a permit"-"No, you don't need one" conversation.

This isn't rocket science, people. It's just a road. Figure out what needs to be done, and finish the job.