News Release

CONTACT: Carl DeFebo
Phone: 717-831-7176
April 28, 2016




Pennsylvania Turnpike and PennDOT Announce Next Step for Planned I-81-Turnpike Beltway for Scranton Region
Plan to Address Congestion Relief


Pittston, PA – The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) today announced the next step in a proposal to link Interstate 81 and the Turnpike’s Northeastern Extension, Interstate 476, in the Scranton area to form a beltway that will help ease congestion on I-81.

The Turnpike Commission will soon hire a consultant engineering firm to perform environmental studies and other preliminary design work on two new, highway-speed connections. The Commission expects to issue a request for proposals this summer and have an engineering firm on board by the end of the year.

”We are pleased to join PennDOT in announcing this critical step forward in a project that will help deliver enhanced mobility and safety for travelers without the costs and impacts of widening I-81 to six lanes,” Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said. “Completion of new ramps to join the two interstates north and south of the city will create a beltway around Scranton.”

The plan calls for highway-speed connections that will enable motorists to seamlessly drive from interstate to interstate in northbound and southbound directions. It includes two separate links: one connection south of Scranton in the Borough of Dupont and Pittston Township, Luzerne County, and a second connection north of Scranton in South Abington Township, Lackawanna County.

Joining Compton at an announcement event was PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Planning Jim Ritzman.

“We have worked with the Turnpike Commission to reach this point and, in line with Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration’s goal of government that works, we will continue our collaboration to deliver this improvement for the people of the region,” Ritzman said.

Environmental studies and preliminary design for the Scranton Beltway are expected to last three to four years with a cost of up to $10 million. Final design would start at the completion of preliminary design. Following design, construction could start as soon as 2021. The construction cost is estimated at around $160 million; PennDOT will contribute $40 million, with the remaining portion funded by the Turnpike.

Funding for the Scranton Beltway Project comes as a direct result of the 2013 passage of Act 89, the state’s comprehensive, transportation-funding measure.

“Act 89 delivers PennDOT the revenues it needs to fund its share of the beltway,” Compton said. “And without the full implementation of Act 89 — which includes a significant cut in our funding requirement to the Commonwealth in 2022 — the Turnpike Commission would not otherwise have funding available for the construction of this project.”

Making the links between the two highways more convenient will attract more vehicles onto the Northeastern Extension and help ease congestion on I-81. More than 70,000 vehicles a day use portions of I-81 through the Scranton region, while the Northeastern Extension carries about 10,000 vehicles a day.

“Adding capacity on I-81 is not financially feasible, but taking this lower cost approach is intended to address the region’s traffic issues,” Ritzman said. “The beltway will take advantage of excess traffic capacity on this stretch of the Northeastern Extension, which is underutilized compared to other parts of I-476.”

To keep both cash-paying and E-Z Pass customers moving seamlessly around the new beltway, the PA Turnpike plans to introduce nonstop tolling at the connection points. Those who would normally pay with cash will instead use a system called TOLL BY PLATE, which captures an image of the vehicle’s license plate at highway speed and generates a monthly invoice which is then mailed to the vehicle owner.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Carl DeFebo, 717-831-7176 or Rich Kirkpatrick, 717-783-8800