– PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) announced today that as part of a long-range plan to address congestion in the Interstate 81 corridor, an engineering study will soon start to determine the feasibility of utilizing a portion of the turnpike, Interstate 476, as a bypass around Scranton.
“Traffic continues to be a growing concern in the Scranton area. Thanks to Governor Corbett’s decisive action to deliver Act 89, we now have the resources necessary to consider this option to use the turnpike as a relief route for traffic on I-81,” said PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch.
Turnpike Chief Executive Officer Mark Compton said the Turnpike and PennDOT are committed to working together to improve traffic flow in northeastern Pennsylvania.
“This effort is one of numerous measures the two agencies have embarked on through our ‘Mapping-the-Future’ initiative to increase collaboration, boost efficiency and ultimately enhance travel across the state,” Compton said. “Our roadway in this area has the excess capacity to make it an ideal alternate for through traffic to move around Scranton without relying solely on Interstate 81.”
The study will develop origin and destination traffic models to gauge potential usage of improved connections, do a preliminary environmental assessment, analyze alternatives and reach out to the public for input. New connections will be needed between Interstates 476 and 81 both north and south of Scranton to facilitate movement of traffic between the two highways.
State Senator John Blake, Lackawanna County, described the study as the next logical step to improving the transportation needs of the area.
“We are very fortunate that the combined past investments by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission have established a nearly fully-built infrastructure to serve growing traffic conditions in the Greater Scranton Region,” Blake said. “I commend the combined efforts of PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission to advance studies and plans for the Scranton Beltway Project."
Highlighting the importance of safety and convenience, State Representative Mike Carroll added, "The current traffic congestion combined with future additional traffic on I-81 between Pittston and Clarks Summit demands we examine a more convenient way to use the turnpike by enhancing traffic movements between I-81 and I-476."
State Sen. Lisa Baker, Luzerne County, noted that the study is a natural progression from Act 89.
“Most of the focus was on critical, immediate bridge and road repairs and replacements when the transportation improvement package was approved,” she said. “But there is also an expectation across our area that there will be larger projects to increase convenience for motorists and efficiency for shippers and haulers. Better traffic flow contributes to greater traffic safety. This study is a good step in that direction.”
Initial estimates indicate that utilizing the turnpike as a bypass around Scranton could reduce the Average Daily Traffic on I-81 by 14,000 cars per day.