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I-81 widening plans on display

October 23, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - After living only 100 yards from Interstate 81 for 15 years, Terry Morgan has grown accustomed to the hum of traffic zipping along the highway.

Morgan said he has learned to live with the "constant whine," as he studied traffic volume graphs at a public meeting Tuesday about the proposed widening of I-81.

Morgan, of Chambersburg, said he attended the meeting to make sure noise would be factored into the ongoing study but also to express his support for adding a third lane.

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"I think we really need an extra lane. The truck traffic is incredible," he said.

A May traffic study by engineers at Orth-Rodgers Associates Inc., determined more than 15,000 trucks pass through Franklin County each day on I-81, and that will balloon to 40,000 by 2030.

All told, about 40,000 vehicles travel the 24-mile stretch of I-81 in Franklin County each day, but that will grow to between 95,000 and 120,000 in 2030, said Jeffrey Bergsten, project engineer.

Charts depicting traffic volume, service levels and crash rates lined the halls inside Chambersburg Area Middle School during an open house Tuesday organized by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Last spring, PennDOT awarded a $2 million contract to DMJM & Harris for a two-year study to evaluate the potential to widen the existing four-lane highway. OR&A is handling the traffic studies, Bergsten said.

In 2001, PennDOT committed to widening the heavily traveled highway, in keeping with plans in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia to expand the four-lane stretches in those states.

The project will include 77 miles of road from the Maryland-Pennsylvania border to Pa. 581, just south of Harrisburg, where it already is six lanes, and from the Interstate 83 interchange in Dauphin County to the Interstate 78 interchange in Lebanon County.

"Everyone is concerned with the increase in traffic," said Franklin County Planner Phil Tarquino. "It's recommended in the county's Comprehensive Plan to widen the interstate and bring the interchanges up to standard."

The study is still in the first phase, assessing needs of the four counties the stretch of I-81 passes through. This winter, engineers will determine improvement options and come back inspring for another public meeting.

Next summer the consultants will refine the options and develop a master plan by the spring of 2004, said Matt Cummings, a DMJM engineer.

It will probably be seven years before any construction begins, he said.

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