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Cumberland County Commissioners asks PennDOT to step up plans to improve safety on I-81

I-81 Bridge and Reopening Update

CARLISLE — Cumberland County Commissioners approved a resolution Thursday requesting that PennDOT step up plans to improve safety along Interstate 81 after a recent string of crashes between Exits 42 and 52 along the Interstate.

“Cumberland County is blessed to have major transportation arteries through our county,” the Board of Commissioners said in a joint statement. “Interstate 81, along with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, brings tremendous economic opportunity. But the interstate also poses safety concerns as traffic volume increases and congestion worsens. In just the past few weeks, we’ve seen crash after crash — many in the same area.

“We understand widening I-81 has a tremendous cost, but it’s time for our state and federal transportation planners and elected representatives to finally address the dire need for capacity expansion. In the meantime, we urge PennDOT to study what short-term actions could be taken now to help improve safety and reduce congestion.”

I-81 runs the entire length of Cumberland County, and carries up to 70,000 or more vehicles per day — up to a third of which are trucks. Many of its interchanges and ramps were designed in the 1960s, and no longer meet current design needs or support traffic levels, the Commissioners said.

The resolution states that the Commissioners:

  • Would support all efforts from PennDOT to secure funding to engineer, design and widen I-81 to three lanes in both directions in Cumberland County
  • Request PennDOT prioritize and expediate the engineering and design work for widening the interstate in Cumberland County from the Middlesex exit to the Allen Road exit, due to its increase in safety problems
  • Request PennDOT to complete a safety studey and make recommendations on interim safety improvements to decrease traffic and reduce congestion until funds can be generated to widen the interstate