PLAINS TWP. — A major exit ramp leading toward the city of Wilkes-Barre will be closed for a year-and-a-half, leaving motorists to use a detour that will delay their morning commute.
The state Department of Transportation announced Friday that next week will mark the start of an $11.3 million project to repair/replace much of the ramp on Exit 3 of the North Cross Valley Expressway leading onto River Street from the West Side.
Work is set to start Thursday, May 10, PennDOT spokesman Mike Taluto said, and will not be completed until late summer 2019.
“This project was on the rehab schedule,” Taluto explained. “The ramp has been deteriorating.”
Still, news of the project came as a surprise to Plains Township Supervisor Peter Biscontini, who said he first heard about it Friday afternoon on social media.
“I just heard about it about 20 minutes ago,” Biscontini said. “This will be terrible. Traffic on the Cross Valley is bad the way it is. This will be a nightmare.”
Biscontini said there is concern about emergency vehicles being delayed getting to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, which is located a short distance from the exit ramp. He also said people traveling to the Luzerne County Courthouse and downtown Wilkes-Barre will face delays.
Biscontini planned to meet with his fellow commissioners to discuss the situation. He said the commissioners will ask state Sen. John Yudichak and state Rep. Michael Carroll to meet with them to explore possible alternatives.
“We honestly did not know about this,” Biscontini said. “There are some serious health risks here concerning ambulances needing to get to the hospital. It’s a real concern.”
PennDOT’s Taluto said the off-ramp bridge deck and parapets will be removed and replaced and beams and girders will be inspected and painted.
The signed detour is scheduled to be in place for two construction seasons, Taluto added.
That detour will follow the North Cross Valley Expressway south (Route 309 south) to Wilkes-Barre Boulevard at Exit 2 where temporary signals have been installed. A left turn on the green signal may be made onto Wilkes-Barre Boulevard to follow the River Street detour signs to the on-ramp to the North Cross Valley Expressway (Route 309 north). Motorists will be able to get off the Cross Valley at River Street from that side of the highway, Taluto said.
PennDOT recently made a change in the traffic pattern on River Street heading into the city. There are now three lanes at the Cross Valley, with two leading into the city. The two lanes merge quickly to one.
Biscontini said there have been concerns raised about the new traffic pattern and he and the other commissioners intend to address those with PennDOT and with Yudichak and Carroll.
“It’s become a dangerous intersection,” Biscontini said.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.