Residents continue to relocate as I-83 widening project advances

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

The population of one York County neighborhood has plummeted as PennDOT issues notices of eminent domain ahead of an I-83 widening project.

The next phase of the project will begin in 2023, but most residents of a small community nestled against the interstate near the North George Street exit have already left, leaving just a handful who are still searching for suitable homes.

The project will widen roughly 5 miles of the Interstate 83 corridor from Exit 19 (Market Street) to Exit 22. 

In 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said 91 properties would be subject to complete acquisition through eminent domain. Of those, 60 were residential properties, 27 are commercial properties and four are municipal or tax-exempt properties. The properties are located in North York and in Springettsbury, Spring Garden and Manchester townships. 

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PennDOT is still deciding which properties it will buy for the project, so it is unclear exactly how many properties will be subject to eminent domain, a spokesperson said.

In total there are eight parts to the project. The three “pre-action” items — the North Hills Road widening, the Market Street bridge replacement and the North George Street and Exit 22 interchange improvements — are almost complete, said Nexa Castro, project manager for PennDOT.

Notices of eminent domain were issued in 2021 to residents and property owners in the areas that will be needed for construction. 

Michael Thomas, a resident on Pine St., in York on August 10, 2022.

Michael Thomas, a renter on North Pine Street in Manchester Township, said PennDOT has been in regular contact with him as he tries to relocate.

“They're pretty good at what they do. It just sucks having to leave, you know,” he said.

For Thomas, a big challenge is that most rental properties want a credit score in the 700s. For people like himself who are building credit, that makes it harder to find a residence before construction begins, he said.

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While he feels the compensation he is receiving is fair, it is frustrating that he cannot access it until a new rental or home is purchased or leased, Thomas said. 

According to PennDOT guidelines, affected residents "must purchase and occupy a decent, safe and sanitary replacement dwelling within one year after the date you move from the acquired dwelling or the date you receive final payment of the full acquisition cost of the acquired dwelling, whichever date is later."

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Once an individual finds a new residence, they must inform their relocation adviser so PennDOT officials can visit the site and determine that it meets "decent, safe and sanitary" standards, according to the department. Until the residence is approved, the individual cannot receive their supplemental payment. 

The PennDOT guidelines note that the department "does not guarantee the amount of any payment, nor is it intended to detail the Department's policies and procedures as they pertain to every relocation situation." 

PennDOT provides charts showing how compensation is calculated for different scenarios for property owners, business owners and tenants. The compensation is calculated by the PennDOT Right-of-Way Unit, said David Thompson, the PennDOT District 8 press officer.

Another renter in the area, Jason Leipahart of North Queen Street, said his experience with PennDOT and relocating has been good overall. Leipahart, who has only lived in the area for six years, said he doesn’t mind having to move.

Interstate 83, at right, near East 10th Avenue, at bottom of frame, and North Pine Street, center, in North York Borough, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

He had been planning to buy a house, and the issues of eminent domain sped up the process for him. The biggest challenge is buying in a seller’s market, he said.

Since there are several portions of the project to be completed through 2029, not all eminent domain acquisitions have started the process, Thompson said. 

The department has only sent out notices to residences on properties PennDOT has decided to buy. The department is still deciding which properties it will need for future portions of the project, he said. 

Once the pre-action items of the project wrap up, the next phases will be the Sherman Street and Eberts Lane bridge construction, the Mill Creek relocation and the Codorus Creek bridge construction. Those three sections are expected to start in 2023, according to the project website.

North York I83 Widening Project

The entire project is expected to be complete by 2030, Castro said. 

— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.