The estimated cost of construction for the I-81 Susquehanna Project is between $175 million and $200 million.
PennDOT Pathways is a program to identify and implement alternative funding solutions for Pennsylvania's transportation system. As Pennsylvania's mobility needs have grown, the amount of funding required to support our transportation system has continued to increase. Much of our current funding comes from gas taxes and driver and vehicle fees. While this model worked well in the past, circumstances today have made it unsustainable. With PennDOT Pathways, we're looking for reliable, future-focused funding solutions that will meet our growing needs while serving our communities and all Pennsylvanians for generations to come.
PennDOT currently faces an $8.1 billion gap in highway and bridge funding. This means we aren't generating enough funds to properly maintain, restore and expand our transportation system. PennDOT is taking action to find reliable sources of funding through the PennDOT Pathways program.
For more information about PennDOT Pathways, visit www.penndot.gov/funding.
To support PennDOT Pathways, a Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study was conducted to identify near- and long-term funding solutions and establish a methodology for their evaluation. One of the funding solutions it identified as being able to implement immediately is tolling on major bridge projects across the state. The I-81 Susquehanna Project is one of several projects being evaluated as a candidate for bridge tolling as a part of the PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership Initiative (MBP3I). You can learn more about the program and initiative at the link above.
A bridge toll is a fee that drivers pay when using a specific bridge, often by using a service like E-ZPass. The funds received from the bridge toll would go back to the I-81 Susquehanna Project to pay for its construction, maintenance, and operation.
To implement the toll with All-Electronic Tolling (such as E-ZPass or toll-by-plate), a tolling facility (gantry, building and utilities) would be constructed within the Great Bend Interchange (Exit 230), 800 feet north of the I-81 Bridges over the Susquehanna River, and would require the installation of a small driveway/parking area along the shoulder for maintenance and access. The tolling facility would not require drivers to stop to pay a toll when using it but would record vehicles as they pass under the gantry sensor. A map of the toll gantry location is below.
As tolling would be implemented at the on-set of project construction, a temporary tolling facility would first be built about two miles south of the Susquehanna River to avoid construction/traffic staging conflicts during construction. This temporary tolling facility would include the same features as the permanent one described above.
In addition, signs would be placed about one mile prior to the nearest exits in each direction — Exits 230 and 223 — as well as along the local roadway network, to notify drivers about the toll bridge.
PennDOT has established that tolls on the candidate bridges, including the I-81 Susquehanna Project, would be in the range of $1-$2 for cars using E-ZPass and higher for toll-by-plate and for medium or heavy trucks. Exact tolling amounts would be determined once design plans are finalized so the toll would generate enough revenue for the bridges' replacement, operations and maintenance for a period of approximately 30 years. At the end of the 30-year term for the Public-Private Partnership (P3), the tolling facility would be removed.
Qualifying emergency vehicles would be permitted to use Pathways' bridges at no cost, following the Pennsylvania Turnpike Policy (PDF).
It is expected that toll collection on the bridge would begin between 2023 and 2025.