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I-81 lane shift to affect motorists

March 06, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

By STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Construction will alter traffic patterns in one of the busiest corridors along Interstate 81 this spring.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is trying to get the word out now to motorists who travel the interstate around Harrisburg, Pa., that an eight-mile express lane will open for long-distance travelers.

The lane, which will affect motorists traveling north from southern Pennsylvania and Maryland, is expected to open in mid-March. It will enable northbound motorists traveling to points beyond Harrisburg to take advantage of a no-exit zone.

The lane begins at Exit 61, Wertzville Road, and ends at Exit 72, Paxtonia/Linglestown, according to PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny.

The six-lane stretch of I-81 around Harrisburg is the second busiest along the interstate, which runs from Canada to Knoxville, Tenn., Penny said.

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He said 100,000 vehicles pass through the corridor every day, making it second in volume only to the portion of I-81 that passes through Syracuse, N.Y.

In an attempt to keep six lanes open as PennDOT continues a major reconstruction project this month, plans call for shifting southbound traffic to the right and putting one northbound lane of traffic on the southbound side, he said.

That lane will become an express lane with no exits. The 14-foot-wide lane will be separated from southbound traffic by a concrete barrier, Penny said.

The idea is for long-distance travelers to use that lane and local traffic to remain in the other two northbound lanes that will keep their normal access to Harrisburg exits, including Interstate 83, Penny said.

When reconstruction shifts to the southbound lanes, a similar express lane is planned, according to PennDOT.

The express lanes likely will be in operation until late 2004.

The $74.5 million reconstruction project runs from the Susquehanna River to north of the interchange with Interstate 83.

The four-year project includes major reconstruction of all six lanes, some interchange ramp improvements, the reconstruction and widening of some bridge decks, new signs and guiderails, according to PennDOT.

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