PennDOT Begins Major I-81 Project

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A warning to drivers in Lackawanna County. PennDOT starts work Wednesday on a $30 million project to make major improvements to a six-mile stretch of Interstate 81.

The project will mean closed lanes and other traffic restrictions for the next two years.

That part of interstate 81 is one of the last parts in Lackawanna County to under go major renovations. Besides some patch work, it hasn't seen major renovations since it was built in the 1950s.

PennDOT officials said the project, which starts Wednesday night, will make the interstate safer and smoother.

If you travel Interstate 81 north. Getting close to Dickson City you will notice the pavement changes from concrete to asphalt. The ride changes too. That part of I-81 was built decades before many other parts of the highway in Lackawanna County.

PennDOT has started work on a project to smooth out the old road and renovate some bridges that need repair.

"Down here in Dickson City, especially the exit right here, horrible, horrible, horrible, too many potholes. I'm glad they fixing it," said Alex Quintero of Wilkes-Barre.

He takes the Main Avenue exit to visit stores like Schiff's. The bridges at the interchange will be rebuilt.

"Those bridges, quite frankly, are in need of those repairs. It's one of those things that by consolidating all the work we're able to come in and make a number of upgrades that all need to be done at the same time," explained James May of PennDOT.

When it comes to traffic patterns the biggest changes will come in the beginning of 2013. While bridges near Main Avenue will be repaired, the exits will close at night. Next spring the stretch from the Viewmont Mall (Dickson City exit 191A) to Clarks Summit (exit 194) will go down to one lane, 24 hours a day, for six weeks.

PennDOT officials said that is so crews can knock back a rock wall that is now too close to the interstate. PennDOT will start by smoothing out the shoulders of the interstate this week.

In the end, officials said the highway will be smoother and safer, but some drivers say it's not worth the two years of potential traffic troubles.

"I think it's outrageous, it takes forever. It's very nerve racking being confined to only one lane with those things all on the side. You feel like you're too close, and it's been going on for too long," complained Rebecca Angeli of Scranton.

Officials said drivers wont notice any major changes to traffic until early next year. The project is scheduled to be finished sometime in 2014.