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Commissioners address Scranton beltway concerns

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Even though construction is still years away, Lackawanna County commissioners are formally voicing opposition to a new road project.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday morning, commissioners passed a resolution opposing the condemnation or taking of any properties for the planned Scranton Beltway project.

Details on the Scranton Beltway project first surfaced in May.

In order to alleviate congestion on Interstate 81, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is looking to add two new connectors between I-81 and the turnpike in the Clarks Summit and Pittston Township areas.

There is the possibility that some property owners in South Abington Township could be impacted and that doesn’t make commissioners happy.

By a 3-0 vote, commissioners approved the resolution with opposes the taking of any properties in South Abington Township for the planned project.

“Our residents have suffered enough with the loss of their homes. They don’t need a government coming down and tearing them down regardless of their intent,” Commissioner Laureen Cummings said.

While nothing is set in stone, lawmakers are worried about what is coming.

“We just wanted to be on the offensive to make sure that people realize that us, as a board of commissioners, are concerned,” Commissioner Pat O’Malley said.

Just before Easter, homes in the Willow Lane area got letters from the PA Turnpike Commission saying the project is being studied and some properties could be impacted.

That got them immediately concerned.

“They don’t care about the little people. We’re paying taxes. We’re doing everything we can,” Walter Tompkins of South Abington Township said.

Walter and Ann Tompkins have lived in their home 41 years.

They say within the last month people have been in their backyards taking measurements.

“It’s scary to see all these people around our development, knowing that it is going on everyday, progressing, coming to a different step in the project that we can’t stop,” Ann Tompkins said.

The Tompkins and their neighbors have been appealing to state and federal lawmakers for help.

They hope the commissioners resolution will aid in some way.

“We made a lot of sacrifices and now they want to take something that we worked so hard for!” Ann Tompkins said.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission says the Scranton Beltway project is about improving safety and reducing congestion and the earliest that construction could start is 2023.

Officials say it is still too early to determine if any properties in South Abington Township will need to be taken but stressed engineers try to avoid impacting homeowners whenever possible.

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