I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project
The I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project is a nine-mile stretch of reconstruction and repair work along I-81 from New Milford Borough to the New York border. Work includes the replacement of the dual bridges over the Susquehanna River between Hallstead Borough and Great Bend Borough, which were built in 1961 and rehabilitated in 1979, 1993 and 2006. Combined, the bridges carry about 27,000 vehicles per day, approximately 41 percent of which is truck traffic. The combined daily traffic is expected to more than double by 2045 to around 55,000.
The purpose of the I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project is to address aging pavement and infrastructure along I-81 including the bridge over the Susquehanna River, and to lengthen on and off ramps to meet current interstate design standards and improve safety.
The project is intended to address the following needs:
Aging infrastructure. Most of the pavement in the corridor is nearly 60 years old, and the Susquehanna River bridges are approaching the end of their serviceable lifespan.
Outdated interchange designs. The on and off ramps at the interchanges throughout the corridor do not meet current and future traffic design standards.
Outdated construction methods. All structures on the corridor were constructed with reinforced concrete that contains more chloride ion content than modern standards allow. While safe, this type of reinforced concrete has a shorter lifespan than most reinforced concrete used today.
Drainage concerns. The storm system built into much of the corridor has exceeded its serviceable lifespan.
The project involves a number of construction activities, including:
- Repaving all roadway in the corridor
- Replacing five dual bridge structures, including the bridges over the Susquehanna River and one overpass structure
- Replacing the drainage system
- Replacing all guiderails, barriers and signage in the corridor
- Construction work on Susquehanna Street, PA-171 and PA-1029 (Randolph Road)
Through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review process, the I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project was approved as a Categorical Exclusion (CE) in 2017, and the project team was allowed to move forward with the final design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction.
PennDOT reevaluated the CE for this project because it is one of several projects being evaluated as a candidate for bridge tolling as part of the Major Bridge P3 Initiative. A bridge toll is a fee that drivers pay when passing a specific location, often by using a service like E-ZPass. The cost to construct the project is estimated at between $195 and $240 million. The funds received from the bridge toll will go back to the I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project to pay for construction, maintenance, and operation. The proposed bridge toll for this project would be located at the Susquehanna River bridge between Hallstead and Great Bend.
PennDOT, in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is preparing Environmental Assessments (EAs) for the Major Bridge P3 Initiative candidate bridges in accordance with the NEPA. These EAs, which examine the significance of potential impacts to natural, social, economic, and cultural resources from alternatives under consideration, will be prepared instead of the CEs or CE Reevaluations initially proposed for these projects. The results of the EAs will determine whether an Environmental Impact Statement would be prepared, or a Finding of No Significant Impacts would be issued.
In addition to the public involvement and stakeholder outreach efforts conducted to date for these projects, the public will have opportunities to review and comment on each candidate bridge's EA during a 30-day public comment period and at a formal public hearing to be scheduled in the project's community this spring. The EAs will include, but not be limited to, project overviews with information on the low-income tolling program, diversion route improvements, and approaches to tolling. Details on where and how to review the EA both online and in-person, as well as scheduling of the public hearing, will be provided soon.
As part of the environmental reevaluation, PennDOT is analyzing how bridge tolling may impact local communities and how alternate routes drivers could take to avoid the toll may impact local traffic and roadways. The findings of these studies were presented for public review and comment in a virtual online public meeting and an in-person open house public meeting. During the meetings, PennDOT shared a project overview, explained the project purpose and need, project design, proposed funding, traffic studies, environmental studies, comment process, and next steps.
Public Meetings: By the Numbers
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Postcard invitations sent to nearby homes and businesses
Invitations and announcements emailed directly to stakeholders
Total audience of social media posts promoting public meetings
Total engagements with social media posts
Unique visitors to the virtual public meeting website during the comment period
Comments received from participants during the public meeting period
In-person open house attendees
The project is currently in final design, and construction is anticipated to begin between 2023 and 2025.
To stay informed or to be added to the project mailing list, please complete the form at the bottom of this page. You may also submit your comments and feedback by using this form.
PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative
On November 12, 2020, PennDOT received the Pennsylvania P3 Board's approval of the Major Bridge P3 Initiative, which allows the use of the P3 delivery model for bridges in need of replacement or rehabilitation, and to consider tolls at these locations. P3, which stands for Public-Private Partnership, is a cooperative arrangement between two or more public and private sectors that involves government and businesses working together to complete a project that will serve the public.
PennDOT's P3 Office develops innovative project delivery and financing models for a wide array of initiatives that are designed to strengthen and improve the state's transportation network.
Through the P3 model, PennDOT can leverage private investment to rebuild critical bridges during a period with historically low interest rates and a favorable labor market. This initiative can provide a dedicated source of revenue for these infrastructure improvements and could create significant savings over the life of the program while ensuring the vitality of the state's transportation system and economy.
Bridge tolling can provide the funds to repair or replace these costly bridges without using PennDOT's current funding, which in turn allows those funds to be used for other roadway maintenance, operations, and improvements. Tolling would be all electronic and collected by using E-ZPass or license plate billing. The funds received from the toll would go back to the bridge where the toll is collected to pay for the construction, maintenance, and operation of that bridge.
The candidate bridges being considered for tolling through the Major Bridge P3 Initiative were selected based on the following criteria:
- interstate location
- structure of substantial size and cost to replace or rehabilitate
- warrants timely attention
- maintains geographic balance
- does not impact just one region or corridor
- ability to begin construction in 2-4 years for the near-term benefit
In the coming years, PennDOT will evaluate these candidate bridges through individual environmental documents being prepared or re-evaluated for each bridge. More information on each individual bridge project, and when the public will have an opportunity to engage on those projects, can be found at
To support PennDOT Pathways, an alternative funding
Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study was conducted to identify near- and long-term funding solutions and establish a methodology for their evaluation. One of the early findings of the PEL study is that tolling of major bridges in need of replacement or rehabilitation appears to be a viable near-term solution. To advance this funding alternative, PennDOT is pursuing the first initiative of the PennDOT Pathways Program: the Major Bridge P3 Initiative.
PennDOT Pathways is a program to identify and implement alternative funding solutions for Pennsylvania's transportation network. As Pennsylvania's mobility needs have grown, the amount of funding required to support our highway and bridges has continued to increase. PennDOT's current highway and bridge budget is about $6.9 billion per year. Although that's a lot of money, it's less than half of the $15 billion needed to keep Pennsylvania's highways and bridges in a state of good repair and address major bottlenecks on our roadway network. Much of PennDOT's current funding comes from gas taxes and driver and vehicle fees. While this model worked well in the past, circumstances today have made it unsustainable. With PennDOT Pathways, we're looking for reliable, future-focused funding solutions that will meet our growing needs while serving our communities. The PennDOT Pathways PEL study to identify and evaluate near- and long-term alternative funding solutions has been published.
Read the PEL study here.