Residents fret PennDOT's ability to execute I-83 widening
Roughly 200 properties may be affected by eminent domain for a planned Interstate 83 widening project. Yet residents and local officials were more concerned Tuesday night with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's ability to see the project through.
PennDOT and federal government officials on Tuesday held a public hearing about the environmental assessment of the $330 million widening project. However, references to the infamous Mount Rose interchange project couldn't help but surface.
"I stood in this auditorium about 12 years ago with reps from PennDOT and engineering firms about the Mount Rose Avenue interchange," said Tom Small, of Springettsbury Township. "How's that worked out so far? I have zero confidence PennDOT can actually pull this off."
Of the 200 properties that are expected to be subject to eminent domain, 60 residential properties, 27 commercial properties and four municipal or tax exempt properties would be displaced, meaning the owners would have their entire property bought and receive assistance with relocating.
Those expected to be affected have shared mixed feelings with The York Dispatch. But residents are largely on the same page with concerns regarding PennDOT's ability to efficiently address the interstate's issues.
"(PennDOT projects) always take forever, and there are always unexpected things that happen," said Erin Texter, of Seven Valleys. "And every time you drive by, it doesn't look like they're working on it. It doesn't communicate efficiency."
Ben Marchant, Springettsbury Township manager, said he shares these concerns, but he remained hopeful that this time would be different.
"There's a concern about whether the project's going to be finished on time within budget," Marchant said. "As far as Mount Rose is concerned, every project is independent and different. Maybe the state and PennDOT will be able to manage the process better on the next round — but maybe not."
The Mount Rose interchange has been described as a nightmare by local drivers. It is roughly 10 months overdue, and the contractor, Cherry Hill Construction Inc. of Jessup, Maryland, in July was slapped with a $14,000 daily penalty until it's finished.
Despite the Mount Rose mishap, Mike Keiser, PennDOT's District 8 executive, emphasized the agency's ability to get things done.
"It's just not the case," Keiser said. "Between 2017 and 2018, we completed 142 projects in District 8 and only three of them got into a situation where we had liquidated damages we had to apply. In general, that's not the way our projects go. (Mount Rose) is definitely an outlier."
The widening project, which covers roughly 5 miles of the I-83 corridor from Exit 19 to Exit 22 — Market Street to North George Street — would widen the interstate from four to six lanes to relieve congestion and improve safety. It would also replace aging infrastructure.
PennDOT's environmental assessment is now under review, and the agency will continue to take public comment until Friday, Oct. 11. It will then be up to the Federal Highway Administration to approve the plan.
PennDOT expects to begin the final design — which could entail fewer displacements — in 2020 and kick off the project just south of the Route 30 interchange in 2022. It is unclear how long it will take to finish the entire 5-mile project at this time, Keiser said.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.