In the late 1700s, Pennsylvanians traveled by horse and carriage over log-surfaced roads and muddy terrain. Decades later, they had the means to traverse the state via railroads and canals. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that plans emerged to convert an abandoned railway route into a motorway. More than a century since, travelers find themselves with the accessibility to motor along Pennsylvania’s many interconnected roadways, including state highways and the PA turnpike. As they do so, they are accustomed to seeing the expanse of fencing structures built along many of these paths to enhance safety, reduce noise and generally mitigate other potential risks.
PennDOT’s purpose is to establish a transportation system that is as effective and efficient as possible for the public, and the mission of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) is to operate a safe, reliable, customer-valued toll road system that supports national mobility and commerce. In both cases, efforts are required to properly leverage highway and right-of-way fencing that promotes safety, quality, and efficacy.
Constructing effective fencing along these highways necessitates deep experience and knowledge of the nuances related to roadway needs, hazards, and regulations. RFI has been contracted to implement many such highway fencing projects, as we are an approved business partner of PennDOT Highway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Following are some interesting insights regarding this type of fencing work.
The Process for Highway Fencing Contractors
If an organization desires to work with PennDOT as a construction contractor, engineering consultant, or another capacity, it must register as a business partner. Doing so allows the organization to submit bids on PennDOT projects and conduct related business. Similarly, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission requires application and acceptance to its vendor list for any organization to bid on and be considered for project work.
The many requirements and potential risks related to highway fencing mean that constructing them requires a specialized approach. In addition to the specific needs of various settings and highway nuances, there are always regulatory and compliance issues to factor into the equation. It is of incredible importance to understand and construct following governances on the local, state, and federal levels.
PennDOT also publishes a list of all specifications to which any contractor must adhere concerning materials used for their projects. The vendor or manufacturer who supplies the fence materials to the contractor must be an approved PennDOT supplier.
Given these challenges, PennDOT and PA Turnpike fencing contractors are generally expected to be highly experienced and knowledgeable professionals in these areas. They must be able to recommend the right kind of highway fencing to meet unique needs and specifications, as well as carry out a high-quality installation process based on industry best practices for safety, reliability, and compliance.
Various Applications for PA Highway Fencing
There is a multitude of different purposes, forms, and considerations for highway fencing, as it can be employed in various types of settings and for several reasons. With a general purpose of separating the roadway from the surrounding area, there are more granular functions and specifications that can be broken down into the following common applications:
- Right-of-Way (ROW): Many interstate, state, and local roadways implement highway fencing to control and/or restrict access to and from the path of traffic. These fencing structures can serve as crash barriers, reducing the risk of collision between oncoming lanes, and create a perimeter delineating the boundaries of the roadway.
- Sound Protection: Fencing in the form of sound barriers, sometimes called sound walls, is constructed to contain noise stemming from vehicular traffic, typically in urban and suburban areas. There are two types of sound barriers used along highways: a reflective wall, which serves to block sound waves and reflect them to the area from which they came, and an absorptive wall, made from porous and textured materials to help intercept and absorb the sound waves.
- Rockfall Hazard Mitigation: In areas along highways where sloped ground poses a risk for falling rocks, fencing is often applied to protect the roadway and prevent rockfall from reaching potential traffic. Fencing or walls designed with this purpose help mitigate the risk of falling rocks causing damage to a vehicle, person, or structure.
- Fauna Containment: The presence of animals on a highway can be particularly dangerous to both the animals themselves and the people driving along the road. Fencing is commonly utilized to alleviate this hazard and deter animals from accessing the highway.
- Bridge Safety: Some areas have passed legislation to address protective fencing on bridges over highways to protect pedestrians and motorists. In response to dangerous (and even lethal) incidents of rocks or other projectiles being thrown over bridges or overpasses onto the highway below, fencing has been erected to thwart this type of activity.
ROW Fencing In Action in Northeastern PA
In January 2016, PennDOT broke ground on the South Valley Parkway project in Luzerne County of Northeastern Pennsylvania, which was completed in the summer of 2020. The new highway was designed to run through Nanticoke, a nearby town with a population of approximately 11,000, and involved a $57.2 million contract—one of the largest in the district.
PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said the project was intended to increase safety, improve traffic flow, and stimulate economic development for the region, with benefits that would be realized immediately. Specifically, this new roadway would help to alleviate congestion and improve safety along State Route 2008, provide access to the Luzerne County Community College and accommodate future development needs.
As part of this state roadway project, RFI was awarded the fencing portion, which included furnishing and installing approximately 27,000 linear feet of Type 5 right-of-way fencing and 12,000 linear feet of Type 1 ROW fencing with gates alongside the new highway road system. We also furnished and installed approximately 1,800 linear feet of 7-foot-high barrier protective fencing with custom brackets anchored to the parapet along the newly built bridge portion of this highway. It was a multi-year project that comprised multiple mobilizations, given the need to install the fence as the highway was being built. The fence portion began in July of 2017 and was completed in November 2019.
RFI’s more than 60 years of combined experience in the fencing industry made us a qualified contractor for this project, and we are proud to partner with both PennDOT and the PA Turnpike Commission on continued highway fencing needs that serve the state’s public in such an important way.
Begin your next highway fencing project by downloading our free brochure.