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I-81 reopens; Some detours remain but smooth commute expected

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Susquehanna Township – Dauphin County

After four and a half days of traffic woes and delays, Interstate 81 is reopen for business.  The 11 mile stretch of road has been closed since Thursday morning after a tanker exploded, damaging two bridges over the road.  Now, I-81 is once again flowing but there may still be some trouble spots.

This is certainly a sight for sore eyes.  The travel lanes of Interstate 81 are flowing with cars once again.  Opening these 81 reopenedlanes was a major priority for PennDOT as crews worked diligently to get the work done.  But even though most of the area is once again open to business there will still be some delays because of road closures and diversions.

Crews worked around the clock to deconstruct the bridge from 22/322 east into Harrisburg.  That bridge was scorched by fire and deemed unsafe for travel.  Construction workers had to cut out sections of the bridge, lift it by crane on to flatbeds below and haul away the debris.

Around 7 p.m. last night, the first of the work was done and Interstate 81 northbound reopened to traffic.  Not an hour later, traffic began flowing southbound once again.  With over 40,000 cars a day in each direction using this busy stretch of highway, motorists just happy to once again have some normalcy in their commute.

“A lot of people who come in out of state we`ve  had to detour them around the capitol beltway. But folks locally, it`s been a round about in order to get to their destinations,” said Greg Penny with PennDOT.

All of this work is taking its toll on the wallet.  PennDOT estimates the cost just to take down the damaged 22/322 east bridge will stand around $10 million.  Very soon, plans will begin to design a fix for the bridge.  That design and construction will go out to bid like a normal project.  Officials guess that bridge will take six months to a year to be back to normal.

So, let’s take you through the goods and the bads in this area.  First I-81 NB and SB is reopened to traffic.  All of the ramps are reopened as well except for the ramp and bridge from I-81 northbound to 22/322 west.  This is where the truck crashed and exploded.  The other thing to consider, 22/322 in and out of Harrisburg is only one way in either direction.  But, this is still a great improvement.

For travelers looking to access Route 322 West from Interstate 81 North, a detour is in place.  Motorists will have to take I-81 North to exit 72, Mountain Road.  They will have to u-turn around there, come back on Interstate 81 South and get off at Route 322 West.

As of midnight, tolls along the Pennsylvania Turnpike have been restored to normal.