Task force to push for I-81 upgrade

August 24, 1997


Staff Writer

The Greater Hagerstown Committee is forming a multi-state task force to address needs for improvements to the Interstate 81 corridor from Harrisonburg, Va., to Harrisburg, Pa.

Chairman Robert Cirincione said improvements ranging from better interchanges to adding a third lane in each direction are keys to future economic growth as traffic on the interstate continues to increase.

"I-81 over the years has become much more of a primary north-south route since I-95 has become basically an interstate parking lot," Cirincione said. "Trucking companies are not stupid," he added.


Cirincione said projects like adding a third lane are generational and need to be talked about now in preparation for pushing funding through Congress. Cirincione said the group has made contact with groups in other states and plans to work together with state and local governments on upgrade plans.

James Latimer, an Allegheny Power vice president who heads the task force, said the short-term objective of the group is to get funding for a study on upgrading Interstate 81 and funding to upgrade the critical Halfway Boulevard/I-81 interchange. Through the regional organization QUADCO, politicians from all four states have been drafted to push for funding, Latimer said.

Latimer said about 30 percent of the traffic on I-81 is truck traffic, and that figure is growing.

Convincing U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., of the need for the study and other improvements is critical, Latimer said. Shuster, whose district includes Franklin County, chairs the House Transportation Committee.

Shuster wasn't available for comment Friday.

"I think it's something long overdue and much needed," said Lori Coover, president of the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce. Interstate 81 "is just not able to handle the amount of traffic that we have," she said.

"It's a lifeline to our communities," said Pennsylvania state Rep. Pat Fleagle. "We had better do something now rather than wait 10 years when it will get cost prohibitive."

"Traveling to Harrisburg as I do, certainly the condition of the northbound I-81 lane between Exit 8 and 10 is terrible," Fleagle said.

Fleagle said the new spirit of cooperation was a definite plus. "I think the days of provincialism as far as transportation are concerned are gone.

"I don't think you are going to see asphalt laid tomorrow but I think it's a good start."

Donald M. Bowman, owner of D.M. Bowman Trucking in Williamsport, said improving some of the interchanges is more important at this point than adding a third lane, but said extra lanes are going to be needed sooner rather than later.

"At least it's being kicked around," he said.

West Virginia Del. John Doyle said in addition to getting funding for the study, his top priority is building a new interchange for Martinsburg City Hospital.

Doyle said a lot of highway funding in his state for the next several years will be tied up by an extension of Interstate 66 into West Virginia.

"I do think what we can do is to get so we're next in line," he said.

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