Updates on strategic planning for improvements to 100 miles of the I-81 corridor are now available on a new website.

The corridor runs from the Maryland border through Lebanon County. The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission is overseeing the project, with partners including Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) for Lebanon and Franklin counties and the Harrisburg Area Transit Study, plus the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

More information is available on the website.

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The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission notes on the site that “the I-81 Improvement Strategy sets a vision for improvements to bring positive change for everyone who travels on I-81.”

According to the site, the commission to date has:

  • Identified 12 focus areas for improvements, each of which have “consistent needs that could be addressed by improvement projects or initiatives.”
  • Prioritized the top four focus areas, “based on safety, mobility, access, and infrastructure condition needs.”
  • Collected feedback from stakeholders and travelers with interests along the corridor. According to the commission, they “consistently rank safety and congestion as top priorities.”
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The interchange for I-81 and I-78 in Lebanon County is among the priorities of the strategic plan for highway improvements.

I-81 runs roughly north-to-south from the Canadian border in Fisher’s Landing, New York, to Dandridge, Tennessee.

Although construction on I-81 dates to the mid-1950s, the highway owes its route to trails blazed by Native Americans and early American settlers along the Appalachian Mountains. The corridor was used heavily by troops during the Civil War and eventually evolved into U.S. Route 11 before new roadways were cut beginning in the ’50s. These days, I-81 is a major trucking route, serving as an alternative to interstates 85 and 95.

Dave Thompson, district press officer for Engineering District 8, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, noted in a past interview with LebTown that the average daily traffic volumes in some sections of the 100-mile corridor “exceed 100,000 vehicles per day,” and “these volumes are expected to increase due to current and future development.”

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Other portions of the highway see significantly less traffic. Steve Deck, executive director of Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, told LebTown that improving I-81 is “not a one-size-fits-all problem.”

I-81 spans about 20 miles of Lebanon County to Interstate 78. There currently are three exits off I-81 in Lebanon County: exits 85-A and B at Route 934, near Annville and Fort Indiantown Gap in East Hanover Township; and exits 89, near the western terminus of I-78, and 90, with access to Route 72 via Fisher Avenue, both in Union Township.

Visitors to the website can download a progress report on the project, view details of the project priorities in the first two phases of the improvement plan, and provide additional feedback on their concerns.

(i81southcentralpa.com)
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