I-80 Over Lehigh River Bridge 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-80 Over Lehigh River Bridge Project forward, but without tolling. A Categorical Exclusion (CE) was prepared by PennDOT and approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The approved CE evaluated and documented how the project build alternative without tolling would affect the surrounding community and environment.
See the Approved CE (PDF)
The I-80 bridges over the Lehigh River are eastbound/westbound structures built in 1965 and approaching the end of their serviceable lifespans. These bridges cross over the Lehigh River, Lehigh Gorge State Park, Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad and SR 1005 (River Road) in Carbon and Luzerne Counties. Combined, the bridges carry an average of 27,400 vehicles per day, about 44 percent of which is truck traffic.
The purpose of the I-80 Over Lehigh River Bridges project is to address the deterioration of the aging bridge structures and provide safe and reliable bridges that will provide connectivity for interstate travelers, commuters, commercial users, emergency services, tourists, and local residents. The project will replace the aging bridges with wider structures; increase the length of the eastbound on-ramp auxiliary lane, the height of the bridges' barriers, and the width of the shoulders to meet current interstate design standards; and improve safety in the corridor.
Project History & Funding
The Major Bridge P3 (MBP3) was approved by the Pennsylvania P3 board in November 2020, for the replacement or rehabilitation of nine major interstate bridges through a progressive P3 delivery model. At that time, PennDOT planned to make annual payments to pay for the work and financing costs on these bridges using mandatory tolling, as was permitted by the Pennsylvania P3 law at the time. Since that time, Act 84 of 2022 amended the P3 law to eliminate mandatory tolling of existing free lanes. The Act also preserved the department's ability to continue the MBP3 and move forward with the Predevelopment Agreement (PDA) with Bridging Pennsylvania Partners. In August 2022, PennDOT chose to move the bridge projects in the MBP3 forward without tolling and pay for the project(s) using existing funds to make annual payments to the development entity over 35 years.
This bridge was one of six bridges in Package 1 to be delivered via the MBP3.
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