I-81 Traffic Delayed for Bridge Project

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Parts of Interstate 81 in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties will be almost unrecognizable this week and there are several places along the way where you may hit traffic.

In one of those spots, PennDOT is making progress on a bridge reconstruction project.

PennDOT started re-building the St. Mary's Cemetery Bridges on Interstate 81 in Scranton nearly three years ago.

This week crews are making the biggest step forward in the project. PennDOT said it definitely tying up traffic, and is actually shutting down the interstate at times.

Three-hundred ton concrete beams will dangle above Interstate 81 this week. The big bridge beams will slow traffic traveling south in Scranton and even stop it at times. Pair that with re-surfacing projects in the northbound lanes and this week, I-81 will look like a full-blown construction zone in Lackawanna County.

"Today through Thursday it's really, really going to be slow-moving out here on I-81. But it's one of those things, we need to get this done, and our goal is to have this finished before Memorial Day so that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the summer traffic, we can be out here as little as possible," said James May of PennDOT.

He added of all the Interstate 81 work going on this week, the biggest project is this one. Crews are placing beams down on the new St. Mary's Cemetery Bridges. Traffic going south is down to one lane this week as all 14 beams are put in to place.

Each one of the beams is about one-third the size of a football field, and 300,000 pounds. As they are being put in traffic will be completely stopped on I-81 south.

Though it may sometimes feel like traffic is at a standstill, the highway will only be shut down three or four times a day for a few minutes at a time. That is during this part of the process when workers are preparing to put the beams in place.

"We have a lot of cooperation from Pennsylvania State Police. They have some cars posted up there. They're helping us slow down traffic but also with the rolling traffic blocks to get traffic actually stopped. That's pretty unusual to have traffic completely stopped on Interstate 81," May added.

PennDOT officials said the cemetery bridge area of I-81 will be back to two lanes by the end of the week. The new bridge is scheduled to be open by November of this year.