Work to Smooth Interstate 81 Bumps Set for Spring

DUNMORE, Pa. -- PennDOT is focusing its sights on the spring construction season, and crews in Lackawanna County plan to work on one of Interstate 81's most plaguing problems.

This week, PennDOT awarded the contract for the project that is scheduled to start in the spring on a stretch of I-81 where the surface of the road switches from asphalt to concrete.

PennDOT officials say the four-mile stretch of Interstate 81 may get more driver complaints than any other part.

"Just the other day, somebody wrote into me and they were asking about the rumble strips on 81. I was thinking, 'What are you talking about, rumble strips on 81?' 'You know, the concrete section out there when you're coming into Dunmore,' " said PennDOT official James May.

PennDOT says drivers have been noticing the unintentional rumble strips for the past few years. Officials say the problem lies at the base of the road.

"You're pouring concrete, first of all, it wants to level itself. How come we have this where it's like we're riding on a boat," asked Nick Zarelli of Tobyhanna.

Bikers like Zarelli have been bearing the brunt of the bumpy ride. PennDOT says parts of the concrete sections of I-81 needed to be replaced but will be sooner, in part, because of the risk to motorcycle riders.

"When you're doing this bobbing, you're taking the weight off of the bike, which makes it easier for it to slip out. You're already leaning over, makes it very easy for it to slip out," Zarelli said.

Starting in the spring, PennDOT will bring in premade pieces of concrete to replace the worst sections along I-81.

Bikers say it's nice to have their safety considered.

"For us riders, it's very important," said Timothy Stemrich at North American Warhorse. "The terrain that we ride around here isn't the most formidable, so something like that is good news for us."

"It's nice to know there's somebody out there looking out for us because today with everybody on the cellphones, it can be a little scary. You've got to have eyes all over your head," Zarelli added.

PennDOT says the work on the concrete section of Interstate 81 should begin as soon as the weather breaks in the spring and it will last two years. The good news is that most of the work will be done at night, and PennDOT doesn't see a need to close down lanes of traffic during the day.

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