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I-80 Susquehanna Bridges CE

I-80 Susquehanna Bridges Project

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Project Overview

I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project

The I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project is a nine-mile corridor reconstruction and repair project along I-81 from the New Milford Interchange with SR 492 (Exit 223) through the Great Bend Interchange with SR 171 (Exit 230) to the New York border. This section of I-81 was originally constructed in 1961.

The I-81 bridges over the Susquehanna River are dual structures (one northbound and one southbound) that were built in 1961 and rehabilitated in 1979, 1993 and 2006. They cross the river between the boroughs of Hallstead and Great Bend and their replacement is at the heart of this corridor project. 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 vehicles per day.

Along the balance of this nine-mile corridor, an additional series of roadway, drainage and structural bridge improvements are being proposed, which are further discussed below.

Study Area Map

The study area for the I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project extends approximately nine miles on I-81 from New Milford Borough to the New York border.

A map shows Interstate 81 crossing over the Susquehanna River near State Game Lands number 35.

Purpose & Need

The purpose of the I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project is to provide safe and reliable travel on the I-81 corridor, including the crossing over the Susquehanna River, and to address aging pavement and infrastructure.

We have identified several needs this project is intended to address:

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Outdated Interchange Designs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Outdated Construction Methods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 in 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.

Project Design

The project includes the replacement of several bridges; new pavement, guide rails, signs and drainage system; and lengthening on- and off-ramps between mile marker 223.84, just north of the New Milford Interchange, and the New York border at mile marker 232.7.

Overall, 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 the SR 1029 (Randolph Road) overpass structure (see map insert)
  • Replacing the drainage system
  • Replacing all guide rails, barriers and signage in the corridor
  • Construction work on Susquehanna Street, SR 171 and SR 1029 (Randolph Road)
  • Local roadway relocation of Emerson Road
  • Rehabilitation work on deteriorated concrete at two box culverts and replacement of a third culvert

Two lanes of traffic in both directions on I-81 would be maintained during construction. A total of five discrete and temporary detours would be required as a result of construction work on the on/off ramps and local roads.

The two Interstate 81 bridges extend over an icy Susquehanna River.
I-81 crossing over the Susquehanna River

Environmental Studies and Mitigation

Categorical Exclusion

A Categorical Exclusion (CE) Reevaluation documents how a project would affect the surrounding community's quality of life, including health, safety, cultural resources and more.

Through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review process, the I-81 Susquehanna Bridges Project was approved as a 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). 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 CE Reevaluation is being 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 routes will no longer be included in the project. Approval of the CE Reevaluation is anticipated this fall (2022).

Section 106 (Cultural Resources)

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act is applicable to federal agencies and requires identification of, and assessment of effects on, historic properties and archaeological sites listed on, or eligible for listing on, the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Consultation with persons interested in the historic and archaeological properties/sites is integral to the Section 106 process and the public's involvement in the project. The Section 106 process includes identifying an Area of Potential Effect (APE) for the project, and inviting property owners within that APE, as well as historical societies and others, to participate in the Section 106 process as Consulting Parties. Separate APEs are established for the archaeological investigations and for above-ground historical properties.

This project would not result in any adverse effects to any archeological resources or historic properties. During the Section 106 consultation, some design modifications were implemented to avoid an adverse effect to one archaeological site and avoid any staging, right-of-way acquisition or temporary construction easements on the related property.

Wetland and Waterways Impacts

Wetland and waterway impacts were studied as a part of the NEPA process. The following impacts were identified.

Streams, Rivers and Waterways Presence Impacts
Intermittent and Perennial Streams Present 6,808 linear feet
Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers and Streams Not Present None
State Scenic Rivers and Streams Not Present None
Coast Guard Navigable Waterways Not Present None
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Water Trail Present 260 linear feet on Susqehanna River

A field survey identified 143 watercourses within the project area. The proposed project results in 6,808 linear feet of permanent stream impacts due to structure replacements and rehabilitations, stream relocation and drainage improvements. The proposed project results in 1,929 linear feet of temporary stream impacts resulting from temporary water diversion, erosion and sedimentation controls, access roads and workspaces. To mitigate the proposed stream loss, in-stream structures will be constructed within Trowbridge Creek, along with planting of the riparian buffer. Additionally, the removal of the culvert along an unnamed tributary will provide compensation credits by reconnecting the stream to the groundwater table and the planting of the riparian buffer. In-stream work will not be permitted for Salt Lick Creek and its tributaries, which are stocked trout streams, from February 15 to June 1 of any calendar year. Additionally, no heavy equipment will be allowed to traverse Salt Lick Creek.

An Aids to Navigation (ATON) Plan will be developed to minimize impact to recreational boaters on the Susquehanna River.

Wetlands Presence Impacts
Open Water Not Present None
Vegetated Emergent Present 0.217 acres (permanent)
Vegetated Scrub Shrub Present 0.197 acres (temporary)
Vegetated Forested Not Present None
Exceptional Value Not Present None

Field investigations identified and delineated wetlands within the project study area. There will be permanent impacts to 32 wetland areas as a result of the project. The total acreage of these impacts is 0.414 acres.

Wetland mitigation would entail the purchase of credits from the Hop Bottom Mitigation Bank that is owned and operated by Evergreen Environmental.

Section 4(f)

Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966, abbreviated here for simplicity, specifies that the Secretary of Transportation may approve a transportation project requiring the use of publicly owned land of a public park, recreation area, or wildlife or waterfowl refuge, or land of an historic site only if there is no prudent and feasible alternative and the project includes all possible planning to minimize harm resulting from the use, or the use is de minimis (or negligible).

It is determined that the Section 4(f) land impacts for the project are de minimus (or negligible), totaling 1.54 acres. Replacement acreage will comply with the Pennsylvania Game and Wildlife Code.

Threatened and Endangered Plants and Animals

Upon consultation with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), concerns were raised with the possible presence of the elktoe mussel species within the Susquehanna River. As such, the PFBC requested continued consultation during final design and construction to better ascertain the need to possibly perform a mussel survey and relocation effort for any specimens that would be impacted by construction. Such PFBC determination would be based on the proposed in-stream construction schedule. PFBC would be notified/consulted at least six weeks prior to commencing in-stream construction activities within the Susquehanna River or as soon as construction start date is set.

Environmental Justice

Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority and Low-Income Populations (February 11, 1994), directs federal agencies to identify and address, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of programs, policies and activities on minority and low-income populations.

  • Low-income is defined as a person whose median household income is at or below the Department of Health and Human Services federal poverty guidelines ($26,500 for a household of four).
  • Minority is a person who is: (1) Black (2) Hispanic or Latino (3) Asian American (4) American Indian and Alaskan Native, or (5) Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander.

While there may be low income and minority populations living in the general project area, the project involves replacing an existing bridge and improvements to the existing roadway. The end result will be an improved roadway for all to use. There will be no disproportionately high and adverse effects on low income and minority populations.

Socioeconomic Areas

Public Facilities and Services: Access for public facilities and services would be improved due to design improvements resulting from the project.

Right-of-Way Acquisitions: All acquisition conducted in accordance with the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisitions Policies Act of 1970, as amended; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code of 1964.

No effects on regional and community growth, community cohesion or aesthetics.