Interstate 81: Rough Road Ahead

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PennDOT officials said they are reaching the end of their patching project on Interstate 81 in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, but the fixes, they said, are only temporary and the interstate actually needs much more work before it becomes a smoother ride.

PennDOT plans to finish the patching project in Lackawanna County and upper Luzerne County on Thursday, in time for the Memorial Day weekend traffic.

Drivers won't necessarily notice a smoother ride because that part of the interstate needs much more extensive work, work that PennDOT doesn't have the money for.

Bumper to bumper has been a familiar feeling for drivers in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties for the past few weeks. A necessary evil this time of year. PennDOT crews have been patching potholes on Interstate 81 on an eight-mile stretch between Scranton and Avoca.

Now that the patchwork is nearing its end for the year, some drivers are wondering, what was the point?

"I think it's pretty bumpy, you know. These patches seem to work for a day or two. Then I feel like it's just another pothole in the road," said Josh Katyl of Forty Fort.

The project has tied up traffic for several weeks, but the patches aren't intended to make your ride smoother. They are a temporary fix for a bigger problem beneath the road.

PennDOT officials said the foundation of the road is failing and will eventually need to be replaced.

"Right now it would cost about $1.75 million a mile to replace that if we were going to go in there and tear it up and do it properly, which would have an impact on traffic too. That's the cost of that. Quite frankly, we don't have that money available right now," said James May of PennDOT.

If you hit the road for Memorial Day weekend and the interstate doesn't seem any smoother, that's to be expected.

PennDOT doesn't know when it will be able to resurface the entire stretch of I-81 in the Scranton area. It would cost about $15 million.

Newswatch 16 found plenty of drivers ditching the interstate because of the traffic. Many were disappointed to hear the road they ride on now won't be getting any smoother anytime soon.

"No, I think it's terrible, it's filled with cracks," complained one driver.

"Because it's PennDOT they do it during the day and it takes twice as long, and the job is terrible," said Tim Reilly of Larksville.

PennDOT officials said Wednesday and Thursday may be worst for traffic along that stretch of I-81 as they try to get all the patching done before the Memorial Day weekend.