PennDOT held an open house at Wilkes-Barre Area High School on July 26th, 2022, to display plans to reconstruct a 7.5-mile portion of I-81. The proposed project would begin at mile marker 161.2, and end approximately one mile past exit 168, Highland Park Boulevard. A detailed map of PennDOT’s planned changes can be found here:
PennDOT identified several safety and travel concerns with the current corridor, including issues with several entrance and exit ramps, a left-hand exit off of the interstate, and aging bridges. PennDOT noted that this current infrastructure does not meet safety or design standards and would not be able to accommodate future traffic growth. A traffic study conducted by PennDOT identified that the corridor’s average daily traffic is projected to grow by nearly 40%, and that reconstruction of the section would ease potential congestion and improve safety.
The project, which is currently in a preliminary engineering and design phase, is proposed to begin construction in 2025. Proposed changes would include the creation of one additional travel lane in the north and southbound directions, realignment of exits 164, 165, and portions of the interstate to improve safety and travel along the corridor, repairing or replacing bridges and other roadway structures, constructing sound walls in appropriate areas to address a potential increase in noise, and improving the drainage and existing storm water management systems. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $250-$350 million.
Additional information about Project 81 can also be found below: