LACKAWANNA COUNTY - Beginning on Monday, May 8, PennDOT crews will start work on Interstate 81 North at 5 a.m. They will work Monday thru Thursday during the week of May 8-11 and May 15-18. No work will take place on Fridays due to increased traffic demands.
“As we have reviewed and evaluated the first of our three week plan to complete a condensed, comprehensive and consolidated work schedule for Interstate 81 in Lackawanna County, we have concluded that starting earlier in the day will allow the numerous crews the necessary time to complete their work and get off the interstate by 4 p.m. each afternoon, before the busiest portion of the day,” said James May, PennDOT spokesman. “This should provide some much needed congestion-relief during the afternoon rush hour.”
This work must be done during daylight hours for safety and practical reasons, May explained. Crews are working in a three mile stretch of highway with nothing but orange traffic cones separating them from live traffic on the interstate. While there are fewer cars on the road overnight, those that are traveling are usually going at a much higher rate of speed and at a significant increase of a serious crash.
Also, this is a massive operation, with crews cutting trees, loading chippers and operating heavy equipment throughout a three mile stretch of highway. To operate a “moving operation” of this nature at night would be a serious safety concern for those working. Additionally, there are some practical issues in that the production plants where we get our asphalt are not open overnight. And in a three-mile stretch of highway, even if we set up numerous mobile light units, crews that are sealing cracks and repairing bridges would not be able to see well enough to properly perform their work.
“Certain types of work can be performed at night, and we will continue to do so,” May stated.
For example, just north of this work zone, a crew will continue their overnight work to replace the Edella Bridge over I-81 in Clarks Summit. Just south of this work zone another crew will continue their overnight project of replacing bridges on I-81 in Luzerne County. Both of these projects are long-term, stationary projects that are completed behind concrete barriers. As such, this work can – and is – performed at night.
During the first three weeks in May, PennDOT will conduct extensive maintenance on Interstate 81 in Lackawanna County. In order to improve travel for motorists during the busy summer travel season between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the department will consolidate numerous projects into a condensed 3-week time frame in May on this section of highway. While this will allow for much better travel over the summer months, it will create major delays on the interstate during the first three weeks of May, especially if motorists do not avoid the area.
During this condensed timeframe, dozens of workers will be along the road, with crews performing a host of activities each day. Two crews will perform pothole repairs while another two crews do crack sealing. Additional personnel will focus on brush cutting, drainage/ditching work, washing salt from bridge decks, bridge deck repairs and additional preventative maintenance. A single lane of the highway will be shut down for three miles each day during the work.
All work will take place between Exit 178A (Wilkes Barre/Scranton International Airport - Avoca) and Exit 186 (Dunmore-Drinker Street).
During the first week (May 1-6), work will be completed in the southbound lanes.
During the second two weeks (May 8-20) work will be completed in the northbound lanes.
Motorists are strongly urged to avoid the area during this time and should consider using the I-476 Turnpike/toll between Clarks Summit and Pittston.
Crews will work Monday thru Thursday from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays will serve as rain dates or makeup days for issues that may arise during the week.
The department has decided to conduct this work in a condensed, comprehensive & consolidated manner this year in an attempt to ease travel for the motoring public.