Preliminary step taken toward new Interstate 81 exit in Pa.

January 23, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Future development of a new Interstate 81 interchange in Franklin County, Pa., took a preliminary step forward Monday.

The Chambersburg Borough Council voted unanimously to lend its support to the project in neighboring Guilford Township, Pa. The Guilford Township Supervisors had requested the council go on record with its positive view of developing exit 12.

Exit 12 would be north of Marion, Pa., at Guilford Springs Road, and it would serve distribution centers in that area.

“It’ll ultimately take the pressure off Wayne Avenue and surrounding borough streets that are now hosting a lot of truck traffic,” Borough Council President William McLaughlin said.

In a phone interview prior to the council meeting, Franklin County Commissioner Robert Thomas said exit 12 would initially be developed for only southbound traffic. That would drive down the cost of development.

“Right now, money is in short supply. That’s the logic,” said Thomas, who is chairman of the county’s rural planning organization, which develops a transportation infrastructure plan.

A point-of-access study found the exit could be aligned with Guilford Springs Road, he said.

“This will have a huge impact on the southern end of Chambersburg and northern part of Guilford Township. This is a good project,” Thomas said.

The Federal Highway Administration recently sent the county a letter asking that exit 12 be placed on its transportation infrastructure plan, which could affect future funding from the state and federal governments. Thomas said that issue will be discussed in February, but there are questions about whether it could be funded through different channels.

A letter from the Guilford Township Supervisors included a $12.7 million cost estimate for the project, Chambersburg Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill said.

A new interchange in that area would give traffic improved access to I-81 and U.S. 11, Stonehill said.

“Such attempts (at creating interchanges) can take years, if not decades, to be successful. ... Without another interchange, sometime in the next 10 years we’ll actually suffer a negative effect” of traffic at exit 14 (Wayne Avenue), he said.

Stonehill asked the council members to consider telling the Guilford Township Supervisors they also are interested in development of a road that would someday connect Hollywell Avenue and Loop Road. He said that road could be planned if two affected properties are developed in the future.

“I think it’d greatly help the south end of the borough if we had such a route,” Stonehill said, saying Loop Road is not built for heavy amounts of traffic.

The council voted unanimously to support the interchange and connector road ideas. Councilwoman Elaine Swartz was absent.

In other business at its Monday meeting, the council approved the transfer of liquor licenses for Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse. The restaurants are planned for the intersection of Walker Road and Norland Avenue off exit 17 of I-81.

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