Quad-State Legislative Conference Discusses I-81 Project

- HAGERSTOWN, Md - With a significant increase in traffic on Interstate-81, state representatives attending the 25th Quad-State Legislative Conference have been discussing issues along the corridor.

Talk of replacing the Potomac River Bridges between Maryland and West Virginia have the attention of many local residents.

Concerns over traffic flow was also on top of the list for those attending the conference. Original design ideas suggested traffic would be one lane in both directions during construction.

Maryland SHA District Engineer Tony Crawford said there now will be two lanes of traffic throughout the entire construction.

"We'll actually build new piers adjacent to the existing piers to, well, actually build up the new piers and new roadway deck, while still maintaining two ways of traffic. And once we're finished with the construction of the new piers and widening of the deck...then we do some shifting so we'll be able to maintain two lanes at both times," Crawford said.

The I-81 widening project will start near Exit 1 in Williamsport, Maryland and continue to Exit 23 in Falling Waters, West Virginia. 

One West Virginia Delegate, Paul Espinosa, said safety is big concern.

"The I-81 corridor is of course critical to economic development in West Virginia that's what always surfaces when we are looking to attract business to the eastern panhandle, so it's certainly critical that we have a free flowing and safe I-81 corridor," Espinosa said.

One guest speaking at the conference, Paul Belella, with Parsons Infrastructure Business, said one way to reduce traffic would be to find better solutions for truckers.

"Not only reduce traffic, but reduce the rate of growth of traffic because I-81 is an important trade quarter. A lot of goods move along that corridor and in order to effectively manage the roads that are there we need to come up with ways that reduce the dependence of trucks along that corridor," Belella said.

Outdoor Express RV is located along I-81 in Falling Waters and the owner. Frank Subasic, said it's not unusual to see a wreck daily.

"High frequency of accidents in the section of 8, it just seems so that the road is too small for the amount of traffic it's going on so it definitely needs some more capacity in some fashion," Subasic said.

Hopefully, careful planning prior to starting construction will result in minimal accidents while improving traffic congestion.

Crawford said the I-81 project will be similar to the Conococheague construction project, just bigger. And once underway the project will take a minimum of two years with more than $48 million estimated to complete. 

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