I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project
In July 2022, the General Assembly amended the state's P3 law to remove tolling as a means of funding the MBP3. As a result, PennDOT is moving the I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project forward, but without tolling. A Categorical Exclusion (CE) Reevaluation was prepared by PennDOT and approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The approved CE Reevaluation evaluated and documented how the project build alternative without tolling would affect the surrounding community and environment.
See the Approved CE Reevaluation (PDF)
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Outdated interchange designs.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Outdated construction methods.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)
Project History & Funding
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 final design and right-of-way acquisition. In February 2021, the project was selected as a candidate for bridge tolling under the Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership (MBP3) and the project team began to study the potential impacts related to tolling and toll diversion in accordance with NEPA. In July 2022, the General Assembly amended the state's P3 law to remove tolling as a means of funding the MBP3. As a result, PennDOT is moving the I-81Susquehanna Bridges Project forward, but without tolling.
A CE Reevaluation was completed for the I-81 Susquehanna Bridges project to evaluate and document the effects of the build alternative with tolling removed. Since tolling will not be initiated, diversion of traffic onto local roads to avoid the tolls will not occur. Therefore, the proposed improvements along the diversion routes will no longer be included in the project. The CE Reevaluation was approved by FHWA in October 2022.
The MBP3 program was established to accelerate the replacement and rehabilitation of major Interstate bridges. Under MBP3, PennDOT entered into a Pre-Development Agreement (PDA) with
Bridging Pennsylvania Partners (BPP) to advance preliminary design work. The PDA will lead to separate contracts to finalize design, build, finance and maintain packages of bridges in the MBP3, including the I-81 Susquehanna bridges. PennDOT will repay the amounts financed by the development entity through recurring availability payments over 35 years, beginning when construction is complete.
Without the funds that would have come from tolling the MBP3 bridges, other sources of funds will be necessary to complete the projects as the bridges are a critical part of the state's interstate system. This means PennDOT will have to reallocate currently programmed state funds and federal funds now available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will result in the deferral or elimination of some projects in the 2023 12-Year Program (TYP).
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