Parking was free Tuesday on a section of Interstate 81 in Luzerne County, but it’s not where drivers preferred to stop their vehicles.
Work to set beams on an interstate bridge over State Route 315 in Jenkins Township reduced traffic flow to a single lane, backing up traffic for miles from about mid-morning to early afternoon.
State Transportation Department spokesman James May said the work that began at 9:30 a.m. wrapped up about an hour early, right around 1 p.m.
“Everything went as planned,” May said.
May said there were no major problems. But the creeping pace of the northbound traffic caused headaches for motorists and truckers, some of whom faced delays of nearly an hour.
Lynn McAllister, 32, of Jermyn, Lackawanna County, said she was stuck in the interstate traffic for about 45 minutes on her way back from Hazleton, where her daughter had a doctor’s appointment.
“It was pretty much stopped,” McAllister said as she pumped gas at the Pilot Travel Center on Route 315 in Pittston Township just before noon. “It’s awful.”
She was looking for an alternate route to get home.
Geovanny Gamez, 42, who had just left work on the dock at Old Dominion Freight Line in Pittston Township, also stopped for gas as he plotted his way home to Tobyhanna.
“I’m going to take Route 11 (through Avoca to Moosic) to 502,” he said.
By midday, the traffic, still barely moving through another a construction project near the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport exit a few miles north of the beam placement, was barely creeping along or stopped for nearly seven miles to almost the first southbound Wilkes-Barre exit as motorists navigated through the single lane.
Traffic also was backing up on some side roads as a result, especially on Route 315 in Dupont, which, in turn, backed up tractor-trailers and cars trying to exit the Petro truck stop.
PennDOT officials had urged motorists to use alternative routes, such as I-476 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Northeast Extension) between Bear Creek and Pittston.
The work was part of a $27.7 million project to replace four bridges on I-81 in Jenkins Township.
May said there would be other single lane closures in the future as the project progresses, but they would not be in the immediate future.
The project to replace the bridges is one of several currently underway on I-81 between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, where an estimated 70,000 drivers travel each day. Besides the Jenkins bridge replacements, the projects include the $42 million project near the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport exit and $31 million in bridge and road restoration work between Throop and Dickson City.