A multi-year effort to improve I-81 has moved into its next stage after releasing the results of an online survey regarding the effort.

Read More: Planning for I-81 upgrades moves into next stage of multi-year effort

The I-81 Improvement Strategy is focused on 100 miles of the highway stretching from the Maryland border through Lebanon County.

Their survey, which was launched in December 2019, aimed to gather information from motorists about what issues are most important to them and what sections of I-81 are most in need of improvement. 

Over 1,160 motorists from Franklin, Carlisle, Dauphin and Lebanon Counties responded to the survey. Their responses were compiled and released in the format of a summary paper and an interactive map on the I-81 Improvement Strategy microsite.

The map shows the 100 mile stretch of I-81 that is the focus of the improvement initiative. Each circle represents an area identified by survey respondents as in need of improvement. The size of the circles corresponds to the number of respondents that identified that location. (Screenshot)

The survey asked respondents to identify what they viewed as the most prevalent issue with I-81 in their county. They were able to choose between safety, congestion, infrastructure and access.

Respondents in Lebanon County identified safety and congestion as the most pressing issues, as 42% and 41%, respectively, chose these options. Additionally, 14% chose infrastructure and 3% chose access.

Within the categories of safety, congestion, access, and infrastructure, survey participants and other stakeholders identified specific problems. 

Safety issues they identified included unsafe merge points, rapid lane changes and short entrance and exit ramps. Problems with congestion consisted of ineffective detours, merge points with slower entering vehicles and road maintenance during times of high traffic.

Barriers to access identified included poor planning decisions, absence of resources for commuters and negative impacts of rapid development. Stakeholders also identified poor pavement conditions and stormwater management as problems with I-81’s infrastructure.

According to the interactive map, two parts of the section of I-81 passing through Lebanon County, Exits 85 and 89, received a number of comments from survey participants.

The map shows Exit 85 and 89, the I-81 sections respondents suggested improvements for in Lebanon County. (Screenshot)

Respondents voiced concerns that the stop sign at the on-ramp at Exit 85 creates backups and blocks the entrance to the “park and ride” facility. They also suggested that Exit 89 needs to be restructured so that it is less confusing for motorists and has a safer merge zone.

The information gathered from this survey, along with traffic, local development and asset management data, will be analyzed and used to identify areas of focus for the improvement of I-81.

Communicating these marks the end of the Needs Assessment and Prioritization phase of the plan to improve I-81. According to the I-81 Improvement Strategy’s fact sheet, the project team will move on to the next phase, Alternatives Analysis and Concept Development, this fall. 

In the fall, transportation planners will develop concepts for the public to provide feedback on. The playbook and long-term plans for the I-81 Improvement Strategy are set to be finalized

Throughout each step of the process, the project team will continue to get input from stakeholders and the public on the best way they can improve motorists’ experiences on I-81.

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