Bridges over Interstate 80 are being raised, on and off exit ramps are being lengthened, roundabouts are coming and roads are being widened. Some exits are going away, new interchanges will be created and a new flyover lane off the highway are all part of the plan.
“This project is going to happen,” said Senator Mario Scavello (R-40). “And by the time the Stroudsburg piece is finished, the piece from Bartonsville to Scotrun will begin. Scotrun is already six lanes, so eventually the whole corridor will match up six lanes throughout.”
The Delaware Water Gap and Marshalls Creek exits have already experienced bridge construction and longer exit ramps.
“Three bridges have already been raised from the toll plaza and the fourth bridge in East Stroudsburg will start later this year,” said Scavello. “All of them have been raised so trailers can get under them and widened to accommodate the eventual six lane expansion of I80.”
The East Stroudsburg exits have an average daily traffic of nearly 80,000 vehicles and 22% of that is from truck traffic. This interchange serves the Lehigh Valley Hospital- Pocono and East Stroudsburg University.
According to PennDOT, the growth of these two institutions coupled with the new residential and commercial developments has increased the traffic volumes well beyond the capacity of the infrastructure.
The I-80 Exit 308 construction is scheduled to start later this year. This project includes widening of I-80 from four lanes to six lanes, replacing bridge over Lincoln Ave and the Prospect Street bridge over I-80, lengthening the on and off exit ramps, installing two roundabouts at end of both ramps, new traffic signals and sound wall barriers along I-80.
East Stoudsburg Boroughugh Manager Brian Bond claims Prospect Street will be widened from East Brown to Center Street and lined with sidewalks and decorative lighting.
“We look forward to the lit sidewalks for pedestrians and safer on and off ramps,” said Bond. “It will feel more like a gateway, welcoming people entering East Stroudsburg Boroughugh from interstate 80.”
Bond expects this project to last about four years and the impact will cost the Boroughugh a projected $450,000 for changes in sewer and storm water lines. This money will come from their general fund and will not cause any increase in taxes.
The next project is the I-80 reconstruction plan is a three mile stretch that runs through Stroudsburg Boroughugh to Stroud Township. This encompasses Exit 307 through Exit 302.
This plan will increase the highway to six lanes, with three lanes on each side plus full shoulders on outside and inside medians— a total of 10 lanes wide. Bridges will be raised and on and off ramps will be lengthened.
A new fly over lane will take west bound traffic to route 209, so no crossover traffic will exist. The project will also include a newly constructed full interchange off I-80, accessing both directions of Route 611 at the Shoppes at Stroud plaza.
The Main Street exit will only be accessible from I-80 West and a new exit further along West Main Street (near Kost Tire and Auto) will be created with access to I-80 East and 209 South. The Dreher Avenue exit and entrance will be closed and an access road off Main Street will be created to connect to Dreher Ave.
According to the plan, the purpose for this segment of the I-80 reconstruction plan is to provide a safer and efficient transportation system for both local and regional connections in the area by reducing congestion, improving safety and mobility.
“This highway was built to accommodate 10,000 vehicles a day, where we average over 60,000 a day and occasionally have up to 80,000 a day,” said Scavello. “This is all on a dangerous, accident-prone four lane highway with short exit ramps. Cars go from a stopped position onto a highway.”
The I-80 corridor in the project area was constructed in the 1950s. According to PennDOT, the roadway has reached the end of its useful life and is in poor condition. Their crash data shows rates above the statewide average indicating a high percentage of rear-end, side swipe, and fixed object crashes.
“The traffic numbers are only going to increase and the longer you wait to do a project, the more expensive it will be,” said Scavello. “By 2030 and 2040, the traffic will be well over 90-100,000 vehicles per day.”
“It can only get worse.”
Kristen Battle organized the I-80 Project Impact AAA Task Force in Stroudsburg. The task force has been advocating for the past two years to work with PennDOT to create the best highway for the area which will meet the needs of the community.
PennDOT reports a significant portion of this project area traffic is local use, accounting for 48% of the traffic entering at the 307 interchange westbound exits at either the 306, 305 or 304 interchanges.
“We are convinced that this design of just adding more lanes to alleviate congestion is not the answer,” said Battle. “We are fighting the six lane expansion.”
The task force agrees that safety updates need to be made, such as the lengthening of the on and off ramps, raising bridges and the need for full shoulders.
“If the highway were to remain four lanes with these other improvements, then with the money saved I-80 can be widened to six lanes from Bartonsville to Scotrun,” said Battle. “We all know that is where the congestion happens.”
Battle believes 611 can then be widened to four lanes from Bartonsville to Bridge Street to accommodate the increased traffic the new interchange will create and allow those 48% of local traffic to stay off the highway and use 611.
“This would only take parking lots, not homes or businesses,” said Battle. She pointed to the negative impacts to Stroudsburg residents in the environmental assessment released last November.
The environmental assessment claims the acquisition of 92 full properties, 175 partial properties— consisting of residential homes, businesses and undeveloped land.
“We have high quality streams, Class A trout streams, floodplains, floodways and exceptional value wetlands that will be impacted,” said Battle. “Stroudsburg will lose 7% of their tax base.”
“For a small community, $470,000 is a lot of money to make up.” Battle said.
Battle explained that this will impact everyone in the community and schools. She feels that the community will need to be more creative, and will need more businesses to help with the tax revenue to ease the new burden for taxpayers.
“The closing of Dreher Avenue intersection is a great concern of ours,” said Battle. “It will put an entire aging community in jeopardy of longer response times of emergency personnel, risking lives and properties.”
The task force’s main concern is the bottlenecking they feel will be created by the plan. They reiterate the fault in planning three lanes down to two lanes at both ends of the project limits.
“We feel there are blinders on for this project section,” said Battle. “There are no plans in the near future to expand the toll bridge and they are dealing with rock mitigation, which will also cripple our economy and traffic.”
“The projects were set to start through the Burgs up to 9th Street and once those were done, the other project up to Scotrun will be ready to begin,” said Scavello. “These are ongoing projects, we have the money.”
“Unfortunately, people fighting this ends up costing us more money and creates delays.” Scavello said.
Scavello pointed out that every delay costs more money and Stroudsburg Borough was the only town to not sign on. He claims Stroudsburg has already delayed the project by a year.
Currently the I-80 reconstruction project is nearing the final design stage. Changes after the final design are rare. PennDOT and AECOM, the design firm, presented the Environmental Assessment in November, 2019.
At this stage, PennDOT and AECOM are seeking the public’s input in effort to identify the need for any additional studies of refine plan further.
“Our hope is they complete an Environmental Impact Study and not just rely on the Assessment,” said Battle. “The impact study would show more of the impact to the waterways, environment, side roads, neighborhoods, etc.”
“No sense putting band aids on this, you will eventually be forced with these issues, you have to think of the future,” said Scavello. “We need a safer highway.”
The task force points to the Environmental Assessment which reads that this plan will create standstill traffic at the new intersection point near the Shoppes at Stroud plaza on I-80 West at the end of construction in year 2025.
“So they are planning a highway for 2045 traffic that will create 2045 traffic in 2025?” questioned Battle. “This project took 20 years of funding and design, can we as a community sit in traffic created by PennDOT for another 20 years?”
Mayor Tarah Probst of Stroudsburg voiced concern that most travelers and tourists will find somewhere else to go and avoid the area altogether.
“How is that creating new business?” Probst said.
Probst and Battle are working hard to urge people in the community to get involved and attend the monthly meetings, every fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at the Borough of Stroudsburg Municipal building (700 Sarah Street.)
“We have a half billion dollars coming here, the engineering work was done, the studies were done already looking out 20-30 years,” said Scavello. “If we don’t do this now, we will be absolutely gridlocked on dangerous roads in another 10-15 years.”