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I-83 study calls for $280 million to widen interstate, more

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Interstate 83 passes over Canal Road in Manchester Township. Thursday, December 6, 2018.
John A. Pavoncello photo

A comprehensive study of Interstate 83 dubbed the "I-83 Master Plan" is recommending widening the roadway to six lanes, creating new interchanges and more in anticipation of predicted progressively worse congestion.

The August study, focusing on a 5.3-mile stretch of Interstate 83 along northern York County, was conducted for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation by McMahon Transportation Engineers and Planners, an East Coast-based transportation planning firm.

Its findings? A variety of projects ranging from small to large, as well as a $280 million price tag, all of which were presented to local transportation officials Thursday, Dec. 6, at a York Area Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting.

The study divided recommended deadlines for the projects into two categories: 2027 for short-term goals, 2047 for long-term goals. By 2027, general upkeep and small-to-medium-scale projects would suffice.

But by 2047, changes become more urgent, the study reports, as traffic is expected to "exceed the available capacity" of I-83, and traffic flow is expected to be significantly disrupted by vehicles merging onto the interstate.

Long timelines, high cost: Will Clark, chief of transportation for the York County Planning Commission, said he agreed the measures suggested in the report are necessary changes to improve the interstate and stay on top of growing traffic patterns.

But such projects also come with a long timeline and high costs, which Clark said are the two biggest factors in addressing the study's suggestions.

PennDOT may be paying up to $100 million of the bill, Clark said. Although the commission has already set aside $13 million in anticipation of the study's results, $167 is yet to be accounted for.

Interstate 83 passes over Canal Road in Manchester Township. Thursday, December 6, 2018.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The chief said funding options include grants, money allocated from municipalities' general and liquid fuel funds, and utilizing the Transportation Improvement Plan, through which  all state and federal funding for transportation flows.

More:PennDOT opens bids to repair section of I-83 in York County

More:Flipped tractor-trailer snarling traffic on Route 851 at I-83 overpass in Shrewsbury Twp.

More:Option for troubled I-83/Mount Rose project: Close overpass

The plan has a long list of recommendations, but Clark said the biggest-ticket items are updating the four-lane interstate to a six-lane design and creating a partial or full interchange at Canal Road Exit 26 between Emigsville Exit 24 and Strinestown Exit 28.

Six lanes: The widening of the interstate alone will cost $150 million, Clark said. But the study suggests such a measure is a necessity to prevent problems in the next 30 years.

The report states the current four-lane design of I-83 "isn't geometrically adequate," and the pavement is reaching the end of its lifespan.

While the current four-lane design, if well-maintained, will "continue to produce acceptable results" through 2027, by 2047, congestion would be too severe for the current design, the report states.

McMahon suggested implementing wider shoulders and medians, improving pavement design and improving ramp design.

By implementing the changes within the next 30 years, safety and operations along I-83 are predicted to "significantly improve," the report states.

PennDOT already is planning a similar project, which would widen the interstate between the Market Street and North George Street exits to include three through-lanes and a local lane.

More:Major I-83 widening project planned for York County

Traffic exits I-83 at Exit 33, Yocumtown, after a fatal accident occurred on northbound I-83, south of Exit 34, Valley Green, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Northbound lanes of the interstate were closed for several hours after the crash which occurred just before 9 a.m. Bill Kalina photo

Exit 26: The Canal Road interchange is not only another big-ticket item, but it's also been discussed before. A new interchange at Canal Road has been floated for years, as the area has seen significant industrial growth, the study notes.

By 2027, the report suggested just a couple of new off-ramps to accommodate predicted traffic patterns.

But by 2047, the I-83 bridge over Canal Road would need to be replaced, four new on- and off-ramps would need to be constructed, and a five-lane cross section along Canal Road would be needed.

The cross section would contain two travel lanes in each direction and a separate left-turn lane. The Church Road bridge also would need to be replaced to provide additional lanes and proper shoulder width.

Despite the lengthy list of changes as a result of Exit 26, a full interchange would decrease the scope of improvements needed for Exit 24 and Exit 28, the report states.

Smaller suggestions include a Single Point Urban Exchange, a type of interchange created to make it easier for a large volume of traffic to move through relatively small amounts of space, at both Exit 24 and Exit 28 interchanges. 

There are other small road modifications and more that need to be made. According to the report, the rest of the cost will come from:

  • Removal of existing structures
  • Signage
  • Pavement markings
  • Traffic signals
  • Drainage
  • Stormwater management
  • Erosion and sediment pollution control
  • Traffic control during construction
  • Other miscellaneous work, such as highway lighting, demolition, utilities and remediation

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.