Interstate 81 to Expand

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LUZERNE COUNTY, PA (WBRE / WYOU) — It’s been talked about for decades and now it will become a reality.

A major expansion of Interstate 81 in Luzerne County is in the works and it can’t come soon enough for people who drive through that area. One area of Interstate 81 is well-known for its massive traffic jams. This project will help alleviate that congestion between the Nanticoke and Highland Park exits. Some folks Eyewitness News spoke with say it’s about time.

“At times it’s bumper to bumper here you know. It will be a big help,” said Rob Stavitzski of Nanticoke.

Stavitzski says he knows all too well how Interstate 81 can turn into a traffic nightmare. He’s glad to hear that 81 in this area will be expanded.

“It would alleviate local traffic. It will be great. A lot of big trucks going through, local traffic, they have a hard time,” Stavitzski said.

A map shows the area that will be expanded. Four miles of both north and southbound lanes.

“What the public will notice first and foremost is they will eventually be widening 81 three lanes in this area. That will be one aspect. They will also be removing that left-hand exit we have when you get off business route 309. We never like having left-hand exits. that will become a right-hand exit,” PennDOT spokesman James May said.

PennDOT is also looking to alleviate truck traffic heading to the Hanover Industrial Estates and Hanover Industrial Parks.

“We are looking at all the industry that is coming in here. Most of all truck-related. FedEx is down here in the industrial park behind me. A lot of industries coming in with trucking-related industries,” May said.

Anthony Mitchell of Wilkes-Barre is not sure the expansion project goes far enough in this part of the region.

“I think it would be a good thing for this small stretch of highway. Unfortunately I think it’s too small of a stretch. If you look at the traffic through Carbondale all the way down through Hazleton it’s all traffic. Especially near Montage Mountain,” Mitchell said.

Now don’t expect to see shovels in the dirt anytime soon. PennDOT says they have to do all kinds of studies and engineering surveys of the area. That will take three to five years, then the work will begin.


PennDot announced plans for a major construction project on Interstate 81 in Luzerne County.

The project will see a widening to three lanes in sections between Exits 164 and 168. 

Scheduled to start within the next three to five years, the project will cost about $250 million, with the goal of easing congestion and allowing tractor trailers to more easily flow into industrial parks.

Eyewitness News Andy Mehalshick is working to get more details on the impact to traffic in the meantime. We’ll have the very latest beginning on Eyewitness News at 5:00 p.m.

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