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Franklin Co. seeks additional I-81 exit

September 26, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- A study of Interstate 81 in Guilford Township, Pa., has officials seeking an additional exit off the highway between exits 10 and 14, a move the newly formed Franklin County Rural Planning Organization (RPO) fully supports.

The RPO took over county transportation planning early this year from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), managing oversight for all transportation projects in the county.

Phil Tarquino, planning director for Franklin County, said Guilford Township commissioned a point-of-access study for I-81 from engineering firm McCormick Taylor of Philadelphia to determine the feasibility of adding an interchange south of the borough.

The study comes on the heels of the engineering firm's Southwest Corridor study done for the Borough of Chambersburg, Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas said.

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McCormick Taylor presented the study to the RPO in August. Following the presentation, Guilford Township Supervisor Greg Cook asked the RPO for its support to find the funding necessary to move the project forward, Tarquino said.

Based on the recommendations of the study the township would like to see a limited-access interchange added to southbound I-81 at Guilford Springs Road as early as 2015, he said.

Many big-box distributors, including K-Mart and Target, have warehouses off Guilford Springs Road, and the area is very close to the CSX intermodal rail facility, Thomas said.

The additional southbound on- and off-ramp access at Guilford Springs Road would ease traffic on busy U.S. 11 and at Exit 14, Thomas said.

McCormick Taylor's study recommended initially only adding access to southbound I-81, Thomas said.

A few of the parcels between Kriner and Guilford Springs roads remain vacant, the study concluded.

If those parcels are filled with more light industrial development and more industries locate near the CSX intermodal terminal, the study determined "the increased traffic generated by the new development would result in increasing delays and congestion at the Wayne Avenue Interchange."

Projecting as far out as 2030, the study listed suggested improvements near the proposed interchange. It suggested eventually adding a northbound access on and off the interstate and a bypass of U.S. 11 that would link the Guilford Springs Road interchange with Exit 10 in Marion, Pa.

"This is a big deal," Thomas said. "That is why the RPO sent a letter of support to PennDOT."

The letter, signed by Thomas as chair of the RPO, says, "we believe the Point of Access Study reveals all of the improvements that will be necessary to support the changing development patterns projected for this area."

PennDOT uses RPOs and MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations) to understand what the individual counties and cities want when it comes to transportation improvements, Thomas said.

By writing a letter of support for the proposed interchange, Thomas said his hope is the study will receive financial support from the state and be added to the county's Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

Until a project is backed with real money, it cannot be added to the TIP, said Sherri Clayton, senior planner for Franklin County. Only projects on the TIP can become reality, she said.

While the idea of adding another interchange to I-81 still is in its infancy and the study still is in draft form, Thomas said the "smart transportation" planning approach taken by the study is the same approach being taken by the RPO and PennDOT.

Smart transportation phases infrastructure improvements to comply with progressive development and land-use changes, Tarquino said.

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