PennDOT Making Changes to Lanes in I-81 Bridge Project

PITTSTON TOWNSHIP -- Drivers can again expect new lane changes in a long-running highway project in Luzerne County.

PennDOT plans to start installing the new lane charges overnight starting Wednesday night. One of the splits on I-81 that divides two northbound lanes will go away.

The framework of four new bridges over Interstate 81 is finally coming together. But to finish the project, crews need to make more lane changes. Starting Thursday, the first of two splits on Interstate 81 closest to Exit 175 will go away, although the second split will stay, for now.

"I think that's awesome, actually," said Matt Steltzer of Kingston. "I hate being so close, having the barriers on there."

"Especially on a motorcycle, I think it may be a little safer," said Joe Hernandez of Pittston.

Drivers in the southbound lanes may notice a change, too. Crews plan to add concrete barriers on the left side of the southbound lane. The new traffic patterns should last for about nine months. PennDOT officials say all of these changes keep two lanes open to traffic in each direction.

"I know that splits are not the most popular traffic pattern, but keep in mind, the reason that we have those is because it allows us to maintain two lanes of traffic for all of these cars," said PennDOT official James May.

PennDOT says 80,000 cars travel that area every day.  PennDOT is replacing these two-lane bridges with three-lane bridges, in the hope that one day, this section of I-81 becomes a three-lane highway.

"Right now, it's going as we hoped out there, but it's a long-term project to convert a two-lane bridge into a three-lane bridge," May said.

Many drivers have been driving through this construction zone for years and look forward to the day when the bridge replacement project is finished.

Those changes should last through next spring. The I-81 bridge replacement project is expected to be finished late next year.