PITTSTON TOWNSHIP -- Drivers who travel along Interstate 81 south will notice a big change coming to the Pittston Area. Starting Monday night, part of the interstate is expected to close so crews can add a new on-ramp for drivers coming onto I-81 from Route 315.
It's easy to understand why that new on-ramp is needed. Traffic backs up on Route 315 near Pittston as cars and trucks are trying to get onto Interstate 81 south. It's mostly because of a stop sign at the top of the ramp where traffic gets onto I-81. The stop sign and a very short on ramp prevent traffic from flowing smoothly onto the interstate.
The speed limit along Interstate 81 south in a long-term bridge replacement project is 45 miles per hour, but drivers seemingly whiz by much faster. That makes getting onto the interstate from a dead stop at the short ramp from Route 315 difficult, especially for truckers.
"We call it the suicide ramp because you got to pull out from a dead stop with a load on," said trucker William Volkeo. "You got to get 73,000 pounds rolling down the road in a matter of seconds."
But now, PennDOT is making changes. Crews plan to close one lane of Interstate 81 south starting 7:30 p.m. Monday.
"What we're going to be doing if shifting traffic southbound over to the northbound lanes," said PennDOT project manager Patty Fritsky.
That will make room for an acceleration lane, allowing traffic coming from Route 315 to flow right on Interstate 81 south. It also means no more stop
"It should alleviate some of the congestion on the ramp now," said Fritsky.
Drivers agree it will be a much smoother transition onto Interstate 81 after those changes are made.
"It took long enough," said Roni Percy of Mount Pocono. "It's always things they need to improve on the highways and that'll help."
Crews will close Interstate 81 south down to one lane starting at 7:30 p.m. Monday. By the morning, drivers should expect to see the changes, including the removal of the stop sign at the interchange.
Friday, they close the ramp to demo the bridge.