Traffic Groups Launch Final I-81 Improvement Planning Process Manual

The stretch of Interstate 81 through south-central Pennsylvania is busier than ever and in dire need of an upgrade.

Over the past two years, transport planners have carried out an intensive and comprehensive project to explore the future of this essential corridor.

Read LebTown’s previous coverage of the I-81 Improvement Strategy process

Midstate planners were specifically looking to improve the highway as it crosses about 100 miles from the Maryland border in Franklin County, through Cumberland and Dauphin counties, and about 20 miles from Lebanon County at Interstate 78.

The process was facilitated by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC), PennDOT, and the Federal Highway Administration, as well as the individual metropolitan planning organizations for Franklin and Lebanon counties.

The band released their latest playbook late last month.

“The new I-81 Improvement Strategy website highlights key initiatives and projects that are detailed in the completed Playbook,” said Steve Deck, executive director of TCRPC, in a press release. “The I-81 Playbook explores both short- and long-term projects to improve the corridor and addresses both the infrastructure and the economic impact of the road on surrounding communities.”

Visualization of opportunities for public feedback throughout the planning process.

The scope of I-81 as part of the planning process was broken down into a few distinct focus areas, one of which was “Rural Counties of Dauphin/Lebanon”. Specific needs highlighted for this focus area included: high congestion, particularly high truck volumes; travel delays, especially with southbound travel; anticipated future development pressure; aging or missing infrastructure.

Planners have identified two concepts that could help solve these mobility issues: adding “rolling shoulders” to both lanes and/or adding a third southbound lane. The total cost of adding the hard shoulders between exits 72 and 89 was estimated at $139.2 million, compared to $204.6 million for adding a third southbound lane.

According to the project summary, PennDOT currently spends approximately $450 million per year on interstate highways, with that amount expected to grow to $1 billion by 2028. Playbook projects are not guaranteed to be completed. , but the document will serve as a guide to set priorities for the future, and used as a tool to prioritize projects as funding becomes available.

“I am excited about the value this project has brought to the I-81 corridor and the opportunities to improve the roadway for the benefit of residents in our area,” said Jon Fitzkee, Senior Transportation Planner with DFO Lebanon County. , in a press release.

For the full playbook and more information on the process, visit

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Louisa R. Loomis