Maryland transportation officials and Gov. Larry Hogan on Dec. 22 announced the start of a project cost-shared with neighboring West Virginia to
widen part of north-south Interstate 81.
They said the $105 million project is the first phase of improvements to enhance safety and relieve traffic congestion along the heavily traveled corridor.
Working with the West Virginia Department of Transportation, the Maryland DOT said its State Highway Administration will widen I-81 between US 11 in West Virginia and MD 63/MD 68 or Lappans Road in Williamsport, and rebuild four bridges within the project limits. The West Virginia DOT provided $40 million toward the I-81 project, with Maryland contributing $65 million.
Hogan also announced that Maryland has applied for a Fastlane infrastructure grant from the USDOT to help fund the next phase of the project.
I-81 is a critical link for West Virginia and Western Maryland and is a significant commercial traffic corridor. During the last two decades its volume has doubled to 63,400 vehicles a day – with 28 percent of that made up of heavy truck traffic. Planners estimate that by 2035 the corridor's volume will increase to 91,850 vehicles daily.
"Today I am pleased to announce that – as we speak – shovels are in the ground and work is underway to widen I-81 between U.S. 11 in West Virginia and MD 63 in Maryland," said Hogan. "These improvements to I-81 are critical infrastructure investments that will help citizens here in Washington County, across Western Maryland and all across our state go about their daily lives in a faster, more efficient and safer manner."
Once complete in summer 2020, the five-mile segment of I-81 – including bridges over the Potomac River and at Lappans Road – will have a total of six travel lanes. The project includes rebuilding the I-81 interchange with MD 63/MD 68 to accommodate the new lanes, installing storm water management systems and upgrading lighting, signs and guardrail to enhance safety in the corridor.
For the next phases of I-81 upgrades, Hogan has allocated $5 million for design and engineering of 2.5 miles between MD 63/MD 68 and I-70. The SHA also has two more preservation projects underway on I-81 to enhance safety, which together represent a $10.5 million investment and should be complete next summer.