Planned Beltway Project Off Mark
I have spent my entire career in the transportation industry. My familiarity with industry practices gives me an ability to look at the proposed Scranton Beltway Project with a critical eye based on practical experience. My Willow Lane home in South Abington Twp. most likely will not be taken, but many of my neighbors’ homes potentially may be affected by this wasteful, $176 million project. Here are some arguments against the way this project is currently planned: ■ The congestion on Interstate 81 occurs twice daily, during morning and afternoon rush hours. The volume going north backs up between exit 175 for Pittston and Dupont and dissipates by exit 188 in Dunmore. These are daily commuters who do not and will not use the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It does not meet their needs to get to and from work. ■ The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission sells the beltway on the idea that by building high-speed on and off ramps at exits that already exist, it will take the “through traffic” off Route 81. Let’s look at that traffic — often tractor-trailers and trucks. Why doesn’t commercial traffic currently use the turnpike and existing exits? The first reason is tolls. It is an added cost that freight companies will not accept when a “free” route on Interstate 81 runs parallel to it. No logistics manager would add that unnecessary cost. It does not make good business sense. ■ The vast majority of commercial drivers get paid by the mile, not by the hour. So logistics managers would not consider it. They are not concerned generally with a daily 20-minute additional running time. ■ For northbound commercial traffic, the trip from the Pittston on-ramp to the turnpike through Clarks Summit is a long uphill pull for trucks. That adds fuel costs and unnecessary strain on equipment, which can be avoided by using I-81. ■ Finally, the turnpike is a limited access road. The only exit for the Scranton area is actually for all intents in Old Forge. Traveling to the eastern side of Scranton — where the majority of the population resides and businesses exist — not only adds time, but the risk of traveling on small local roads in an area with multiple low underpasses. This is not a safe idea. These are my arguments against the beltway project plan. Add to this the number of hardworking, good taxpaying voters who will potentially lose their homes and be forced to move against their will for a project that would add little value but drain at least $176 million. Wouldn’t this money be put to better use by repairing our current roadways and bridges?