More than four frustrating months of delays, detours, jammed neighborhood streets, and lost business are scheduled to end on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 15, or the following morning, when PennDot reopens Route 422 in Palmyra following a multi-million dollar sinkhole repair project that has detoured traffic around the borough since late June.
PennDOT had originally predicted completion around Thanksgiving.
PennDOT spokeswoman Fritzi Schreffler announced the reopening of Palmyra’s main street, also a major commuter route to Harrisburg, at a chilly Wednesday morning press conference held in the parking lot of the aptly-named Sinkhole Saloon, adjacent to the repair site.
According to Schreffler, the road carried an average of 16,500 vehicles daily through Palmyra before its closing. She stressed repeatedly that the project is a “repair,” not a permanent “fix,” because the underground flow of water that causes sinkholes cannot be predicted or controlled.
The extensive repair project in a stretch of roadway that has historically been prone to sinkholes involved the sinking of 84 subterranean concrete and steel columns, known as “micropiles,” into the bedrock under a 300 by 38 foot section of the road. Schreffler said they extend between 17 and 180 feet below the new concrete roadway installed on top of them, which is two feet thick.
Recognizing the uncertainty of sinkholes and underground water, Schreffler said that 30 portals, similar to small manholes, have been installed in the new roadway to allow monitoring cameras to be lowered into the void below the surface.
Palmyra Area Business Association (PABA) board member and local auto dealer Warren Lewis said that the road closure has had differing negative impacts on commerce, depending on the type of business.
“The impact on the businesses I’ve talked to has been worse for the ‘convenience businesses’ in town,” he explained. “An auto dealer is a ‘destination business.’ When people want to buy a car, they’ve done their research and are willing to put up with the inconvenience of getting here.”
“On the other hand, ‘convenience businesses’ like Sheetz, coffee shops, and auto parts stores seem to have been hurt worse, because it’s easy for people to go somewhere else for the same thing,” Lewis said.
PABA President Amy Eiserman is an owner of both types, and she confirmed Lewis’ observations. Her family owns Palmyra Bowling Lanes and the adjacent Sinkhole Saloon. She said the bowling lanes, being a “destination,” saw a smaller downturn than the saloon.
“We really appreciate the loyalty of our league bowlers, who stuck with us during the closure,” she said. On the other hand, she sees the saloon as a “convenience business.”
“We had a bigger drop there because lots of people driving by just decide at the moment to stop in.”
Want to know more about the Palmyra sinkhole? Check out our story from June here.