Interstate 83
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the
United States Memorial Highway

One of Pennsylvania's first interstates to be built, Interstate 83 began as the Department of Highways upgraded US 111 to an expressway.  Construction on the first section between Exit 33 and Exit 39B began in 1950.  Two years later this section opened and was christened the Harrisburg-York-Baltimore Expressway.  Also in 1952, construction began on the sections between Exit 39B and Exit 41B in Lemoyne and between Paxton Street and Exit 50.  In 1954, those two sections were opened to traffic while construction began on the part between Exit 28 and Exit 32.

In 1955, the section between Exit 28 and Exit 32 opened to traffic and the section of US 111 between Exit 32 and Exit 33 was upgraded to an expressway.  In 1956, construction began on the section from Exit 22 to Exit 28 and opened to traffic in 1958.  The operative word at the Department of Highways in 1958 must have been "completion," as construction began on most of the remainder of the expressway:  Maryland state line to Exit 22 and Exit 41B to Exit 45.  The latter segment included the Susquehanna River crossing known as the John Harris Bridge.  In 1959, the section from the Maryland state line to Exit 16 opened with Pennsylvania Governor David L. Lawrence and Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes cutting the ribbon at the Queen Street interchange opening the roadway.  "It's official now," a York Gazette and Daily story said about the official date.  "You can drive from the outskirts of Harrisburg to the outskirts of Baltimore without seeing a traffic light."

Not only did the expressway receive the I-83 designation in 1960, but more sections opened to traffic:  Exit 16 to Exit 22, completing the bypass of York, and Exit 41B to Exit 43.  In 1961, the section between Exit 43 and Exit 45 opened to traffic with a twist:  the expressway was completed, and the US 111 designation moved onto it and the northern terminus from Lemoyne to US 22.  Interstate 83 would become a "solo act" for the first time in 1963 when the US 111 shields were taken down, leaving only one designation; however, the Interstate was not complete by today's standards.

1972-1973 DOT mapIn 1968, construction began on the sections from Exit 45 to Exit 47 and Exit 50 to Exit 51.  Two years later, the latter would open to traffic but the Exit 45 to Exit 47 segment would take a little while longer.  The reason being is that it involves the massive Eisenhower Interchange, one of the most complex if not largest, in the Commonwealth.  This last section would open to traffic in 1971.  A picture of it was featured on the cover of the 1972-1973 Department of Transportation map seen at the left.




In the late 1990s there was talk of extending I-83 northward to Williamsport and further. Since PennDOT has been rebuilding US 15 north of the city as an expressway, and with many expressway sections between it and Harrisburg, an extension of the designation seems appropriate.  However, the US 15 widening projects near Amity Hall did not result in an expressway and is an at-grade, four-lane highway with a turning lane in the middle. PennDOT has no plans to upgrade the highway to expressway standards; therefore, the Interstate designation could not proceed any further than Clarks Ferry.

In July 2001, work began on rehabilitating the bridges within the Eisenhower/Hershey Interchange.  The $4.7 million project will be conducted in stages over the next four years and includes concrete repair, replacement of expansion joints which are worn and need to be replaced, and updating the guide rail.  The project is scheduled to be completed in June 2004.

Eisenhower Interchange
Eisenhower Interchange  (Harrisburg Patriot-News)

An unusual accident took place on the morning of November 19, 2001, when a tractor-trailer carrying 8,400 live chickens lost its load on Interstate 83 southbound ramp in the Eisenhower Interchange at 8:30 AM.  The driver said that he was going around the bend when the trailer tipped, and spilled the crates of live chickens onto the highway.  Some of the chickens fell onto the Interstate, while others landed on the railroad tracks below.  Cleanup crews acted quickly to get the birds off the highway; however, it still had to be closed for about 45 minutes and trains delayed for hours as they worked to clean up the mess.

Time was beginning to take its toll on the expressway by 2003.  In March of that year, PennDOT began repairing and resurfacing the Interstate between Exit 19 and Interstate 81.  The project also involved doing the same to Eisenhower Boulevard, Paxton Street, and a portion of Derry Street between the on- and off-ramps with Interstate 83.  The overlay used is called Novachip, which is a very thin application of asphalt that seals and protects the underlying concrete from water damage and deterioration.  It also increases traction for vehicles and prevent skidding.  The project was originally scheduled to conclude at the end of 2004, but due to unusually wet weather during last year's construction season and cool temperatures in the fall, the project stretched into 2004 and ended in June.  The cost of the project was $9,825,862.

One of the problems with Interstate 83 is that it is a narrow expressway, because it was built before the construction standards for Interstates were created.  However, it isn't too late to undo the mistakes of yesteryear.  PennDOT began a rehabilitation project in the area of Exit 14 and Exit 15 in York in May 2003.  The project included:  improvement of existing geometric conditions, signals at ramp intersections, construction of turning lanes at ramp intersections, widening and realignment of ramps, pavement rehabilitation and resurfacing, and bridge improvements.  The project concluded on December 6, 2006 at a cost of $58 million.

It takes a really big snow storm to close roads and that is exactly what hit on February 9, 2010.  Governor Rendell took proactive measures and closed I-83 at 2:00 PM the following day.  In a press release he stated, "For your safety, do not drive.  You will risk your life and, potentially, the lives of others if you get stuck on highways or any road.  The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings for several counties in Pennsylvania and visibility is at or near zero.  Motorists must stay off Interstates 81, 83, and 78 until my administration lifts the restriction," the latter of which happened on February 11.

A project to improve safety at the PA 124/Mount Rose interchange (Exit 18) in York began in 2012.  Work will entail widening and rebuilding sections of Interstate 83, PA 124, Camp Betty Washington Road, Haines Road, and Green Hill Road, reconfiguring the interchange itself, construction of four new bridges, replacing and widening three exiting bridges, widening of three existing box culverts, construction of a new box culvert, and installation of two new sound walls.  New traffic signals will be installed at six intersections, updated drainage and guiderails, signing and pavement markings, and new highway lighting round out the $58.3 million project which is projected to conclude in Summer 2018.

One of the most heavily traveled sections of the Interstate is from the Turnpike into downtown Harrisburg and north to Interstate 81, which was the focus of a study that concluded in 2003.  It was estimated that it would cost $1 billion to rebuild all of the 11 miles at once, so instead improvements were broken down into separate projects.  The first was improving the section from Exit 40B to Exit 42 in Cumberland County where three off-ramps and two on-ramps would be removed or reconfigured.  At Exit 41B, the southbound off-ramp would be removed and a longer acceleration ramp would be built in place of the existing ramp to Interstate 83 southbound from PA 581.  The Lemoyne interchange, Exit 42, would be removed completely, and the Highland Park and Lemoyne exits replaced with a new ramp to Lowther Street.  The bridge carrying PA 581 over South 10th Street would be replaced as would the bridge carrying Lowther Street over I-83, but the biggest part of the project is the addition of another northbound lane between Exit 40B and the John Harris Bridge.  Crews closed the former Exit 42/Lemoyne interchange on the night of July 31, 2014, which was the last exit before the John Harris Bridge.  Construction began on August 12, 2013, and the $22.1 million project and finished in Summer 2015.  This as well as future projects, made possible by the passage of Act 89 in November 2013, such as widening and reconstructing Interstate 83 between Union Deposit Road and Interstate 81, redesigning and reconstruction of the Eisenhower Interchange, and widening of the Interstate between the John Harris Memorial Bridge and the Eisenhower Interchange were all part of the revised 12-year plan announced on August 14, 2014.  The widening of the bridge will not involve any construction, but rather reconfiguring the current three lanes into four by eliminating the shoulder.  The new lane will connect the New Cumberland on-ramp to the Second Street off-ramp, with the Lowther Street on-ramp merging into the new lane.  Project website:

Mine subsidence has been an issue with highways across the state, but it was a metal culvert causing problems for a section of the Interstate in York County just north of the Maryland state line.  Work to repair a culvert was scheduled for February 28, 2014 due to a dip in the southbound lanes that occurred over the preceding week.  After excavation to repair the damage uncovered a void of 13 inches deep and eight-feet-wide under the right lane and extending into the left lane, PennDOT closed the southbound lanes of the Interstate at 1 AM on the morning of March 1.  Repair work continued until the morning of March 2 when the roadway was reopened at 1:30 AM.  Repairs took place the following weekend to stabilize the northbound lanes beginning on the night of March 7 and concluding at 8:40 AM the following morning.  A $6 million resurfacing project took place between the construction seasons of 2014 and 2015 from the state line to Exit 4.

Construction began in April 2015 to rebuild the roadway and reconfigure the Exit 18/PA 124 interchange both to more modern standards.  Also included in the $58.3 million project is widening Mount Rose Avenue to seven lanes; upgrading traffic signals along PA 124; construction of seven bridges, two box culverts, and two noise walls; and building an access road to a nearby business park.

The original timetable for the project had a completion date of June 2018; however, that target date was missed.  Cherry Hill Construction, of Jessup, Maryland, requested more time and money as the project at that time was up to $59.7 million, just a little over what the second lowest bidder, G.Z. & F.C. Wagman Inc. of York County, offered to do the work at $59.5 million.  State Representative Stan Saylor, said he wants to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would allow entities to consider awarding a contract to the next bidder if they are within 1% of the lowest bidder’s price.  The bill would also allow the entity to research the bidders and any that have been historically late or over-budget on completing a project would automatically be disqualified.  "Let’s be honest," he said. "If it were [York-based] Kinsley or Wagman on this project, we would not be having this conversation knowing the way they operate.  The project would be completed this year."  Representative Kristin Phillips-Hill cautioned that such action would have to take place on the federal level as well due to funding coming from both the state and federal levels of government.  Many issues have caused the project to drag on such as 12 project superintendent changes, relocation of utilities took longer than expected, and weather caused delays.  Mike Keiser, PennDOT's executive for the south-central district, also said other "things" caused delays but would not go into detail on specifics.

In early 2018, Cherry Hill's parent company Tutor Perini assumed control of the project to ensure its completion, but with a caveat.  In order to play "catch-up," they wanted to close the PA 124 overpass entirely to speed the process, but PennDOT was not on board with that idea.  The agency accepted some blame, but not all, for the project's delays, and said they were negotiating with Tutor Perini for a final price tag and completion date, but warned that negotiations could break down and everything be settled in arbitration by the state Board of Claims.  Before Tutor Perini stepped in, Cherry Hill was losing money on the project, and for good reason.  They were ordered to redo pavement and curbing on Haines Road as neither met Department of Transportation specifications, but the agency would not go into specifics on how many times during construction completed work had to be redone.  PennDOT began assessing Cherry Hill penalties of $5,825 a day for not having the project done in November 2018.  It then began tacking on an additional $4,885 per day, bringing the total to $10,710, on February 10, 2019 due to a ramp detour for the I-83 southbound on-ramp that was to have ended the day before.  Currently the projected completion date is late 2019 or early 2020, a year and a half late.

Work to resurfacing the Interstate between Exit 4 and Exit 10 began in Spring 2018, but Mother Nature was uncooperative.  Due to the numerous storm that pelted York County, crews lost 50 days of work.  The northbound side was able to be completed that year, but only the top coat of asphalt had been laid from Exit 4 to the bridge over PA 216 at Exit 8.  "They'll pave as much as they can until November 15, and then the rest of the paving will have to wait until the spring to be finished," PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said.  Crews worked nights and weekends to try to finish before winter set in, but they also continued on placing guide rails and new signs, installing edge-line rumble strips, applying epoxy paint, and other things.  The $11 million project resumed April 1, 2019 to finish paving the southbound section between Exit 8 and Exit 4, and was completed by June of that year.

In August 2018, the York County Planning Commission released a study of 5.3 miles of the Interstate in northern York County.  The "I-83 Master Plan," as it was dubbed, looked to address the increasing congestion planned in the coming decades.  Some of the suggestions were widening the roadway to six lanes, which would cost $150 million, and constructing new interchanges such as a partial one or full one at Canal Road between Exit 24 and Exit 28.  The results laid out a variety of small and large projects, plus the $280 million price tag, which local officials saw at the December 6, 2018 York Area Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting.  PennDOT could toss in $100 million, and the YCPC has $13 million set aside, but it still leaves a $167 million deficit.  Recommended deadlines for the projects were divided into short-term (by 2027) and long-term (2047) goals, with the former being general maintenance and small-to-medium-scale projects.  McMahon Transportation Engineers and Planners, the authors of the study, also suggested wider medians and shoulders for the route.

In October 2018, PennDOT announced an ambitious plan to widen the highway between Paxton Street and Second Street in Harrisburg by adding three lanes in each direction to form a Collector Distributor System which would bring the total number of lanes to 12.  Also included in the work would be construction of a new interchange with Cameron Street in Harrisburg, and the elimination of the 13th Street interchange and the Paxton Street interchange at 32nd Street for a total of $53.6 million.  While drivers cheered, Harrisburg city officials booed the grandiose plan but not the entire thing.  They agreed that the plan would move commuters in and out of the city, they'd rather it be via mass transit and alternative methods of transportation.  City engineer Wayne Martin came out and directly said that PennDOT’s traffic study is "fundamentally flawed."  Capital Area Transit Executive Director Richard Farr even said that he was unsure how the plan would affect routes or if it would displace bus stops.  The city disliked that the cost of build and maintain the addition lanes would detract from other transportation improvements in the area, local streets could see increased traffic, land taken for the new lanes would be removed from the city's tax rolls (possibly 28 property owners and 20 business owners), the plan would divide city neighborhoods, increased air and noise pollution and increased stormwater runoff, and it would encourage more single occupancy vehicles which would lead to less investment in mass transit.  The city did not dislike the entire plan as they liked the infrastructure and safety improvements and the realigning of Paxton Street, Martin said.  Mayor Eric Papenfuse agreed on a new interchange with Cameron Street, and removal of the 13th Street interchange would aid in "relieving congestion."  PennDOT had discussed parts of the plan with city officials when it was released, but did not bring up the 12-lane widening proposal.  "The City’s preferred alternative would be to reduce the total width of the proposed highway by reducing the total number of lanes and reducing the width of the shoulders," Martin said.  "There is absolutely no reason for the six-lane Collector Distributor System – it is a huge waste of money."  On March 20, 2019, Mayor Papenfuse announced the city planned to hire an engineering firm to analyze PennDOT's proposal and data to come up with possible alternative designs.  He said he planned to ask city council for approval to hire Kittelson Engineering to take a "second look."  As it stands right now, the project is in the preliminary design phase with construction scheduled to begin in 2022.

Construction began in Spring 2017 on the "I-83 East Shore Section 1" project to improve the Interstate between the Peiffers Lane underpass and Interstate 81 in Dauphin County.  Work entailed reconstructing and widening Interstate 83 to six lanes with an extra lane between the on and off ramps of US 22 and Union Deposit Road in each direction, reconstruction of the US 22 interchange, widening and resurfacing of US 22 between South Franklin Street and Colonial Road, and replacement of the US 22, Elmerton Avenue, and Union Deposit Road bridges over the Interstate.  Contract 1 was completed in May 2019 which consisted of the US 22 interchange modification and reconstruction and replacement of the overhead bridges.  J. D. Eckman, Inc., the contractor on this project, was given notice to proceed on Contract 2 in July 2018 which consisted of rebuilding and widening the expressway, including construction of four new bridges over local roads, retaining walls, and sound barriers.

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The $104.7 million project was substantially completed the first full week of December 2021.  "The I-83 project near Harrisburg is the first of three major projects designed to modernize the I-83 corridor on the east shore in Dauphin County," said Governor Tom Wolf.  "These projects will result in increased mobility and safety in the Harrisburg region from Interstate 81 to the Susquehanna River."  "This I-83 project is a prime example of how a modern interstate highway should look and perform," said Michael Keiser, P.E., acting PennDOT deputy secretary for highway administration.  "This much-needed project transformed an outdated highway requiring frequent maintenance into the safe and efficient facility that those who live and work in Pennsylvania deserve."

Work began in March 2019 to rebuild the Exit 4/PA 851 interchange and convert it into a diverging-diamond interchange, which would be the second in the state once completed.  Preliminary work such as utility relocation and constructing portion of a box culvert over Deer Creek.  Case & Keg, a beer distributor whose building with tall beer bottles painted on the side was a fixture at the interchange for over 40 years, was one of the businesses that had to move to make way for the new interchange.  Owner Don Zeigler lamented about the move to their new location in a shopping center on Susquehanna Trail, and leaving the building his father helped build saying, "I think it's going to affect me more when I see the demolition."  The new diverging-diamond interchange is expected to open in 2021 at a cost of $24 million.

Resurfacing work taking place around the PA 581 interchange in Cumberland County caused alarm for drivers in June 2019.  A single bump in the profile of the northbound lanes has jarred drivers such as Jeanne Tate, who is a truck driver by trade and travels Interstate 83 on a daily basis.  "I was on my way to work, and I hit it, and it sounded like an explosion," explained Tate.  PennDOT acknowledged the issue and said it would be rectified soon.  "It really is a dip, so we have a dip in the roadway," explained Mike Crochunis, a spokesman for PennDOT. "If you have a low profile vehicle, you could bottom out... so just be mindful.  Take it slow."

When the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic swept into the country in March 2020, PennDOT took measures to stem the spread to their employees and staff.  At 12:01 AM on March 17, all rest areas and welcome centers across the state, including the one in York County, were closed to the traveling public.  Also all Driver License and Photo License centers were closed for two weeks and construction projects on roads under the Department of Transportation's jurisdiction were stopped.  Hearing that construction work was halted could come as welcome news, the idea of closing down the rest areas did not sit well with truckers, trucking firms, nor some elected officials.  It was then announced that on Thursday, March 19, barricades would come down at 13 rest areas across the state and they would be reopened with portable restroom facilities while the permanent facilities would remain closed.  "Every decision made has been in the interest of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and we are constantly reevaluating our response," said PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell.  "That said, we also recognize that drivers need and deserve access to rest areas."  PennDOT announced on March 24 that an additional 10 would reopen, and including the original 13, all would provide normal service with additional cleaning and maintenance.  An additional five were reopened on Friday, March 27 which included the rest area/welcome center in York County.

With the amount of revenue from the gasoline tax falling due to more fuel-efficient vehicles as well as a drop in driving due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Transportation's budget has been taking a hit.  Nine bridges across the state are targeted to be a part of the PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership (P3) Initiative, and were selected from various regions so as to not impact one part of the state more severely than another.  Toll gantries would be installed at the crossings and, because PennDOT is forbidden from collecting tolls, would be operated by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission with E-ZPass and PA Turnpike TOLL BY PLATE equipment to read tags or captures license plates with tolls ranging from $1 to $2 for cars.  The cost for trucks has yet to be determined but would be based on a combination of height and number of axles.  The PTC would then forward the money to the Department of Transportation for replacement or rehabilitation and continued maintenance of the bridges.  One that is being looked at is the widening, bridge replacement, and interchange reconfiguration project at Exit 54 in Allegheny County.  Needless to say, the public, legislators, and trucking companies were not pleased to hear this news.  During an Appropriations Committee hearing on February 23, 2021, where more than a half dozen committee members questioned Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian about the potential tolls, state Representative Mike Carroll of Luzerne County reminded his colleagues they had no one to blame but themselves.  He mentioned that the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board was created by a 2012 law passed that delegated approval for just this situation to appointees of the governor and top lawmakers.  While Representative Carroll did not vote for the bill, others who are now criticizing the prospect of bridge tolls did.

Brandon Moree, director of members communications for the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, which represents about 1,400 trucking firms, has been encouraging members to contact legislators and fill out online surveys by PennDOT about the proposal.  The group supported the Act 89 legislation passed in 2013 that increased funding through a rise in the fuel tax.  "Here we are seven years later and we’re being asked to pay the bill again," Moree said.  "We feel we already pay our fair share.  We feel like where fuel taxes already are, we pay enough."  Rick Daley, president of PMTA’s Western Pennsylvania district and a vice president at Tri-State Trailer Sales Inc. on Neville Island in Allegheny County, suggested an alternative would be for the state to help train more truck drivers, because he’s aware of many companies that could ship more loads if they had more drivers, and therefore would pay more taxes and fees.  Others are also questioning whether the cost of installing the tolling gantries and associated equipment outweighs the benefit from the small tolls proposed for cars.  The Federal Highway Administration still has to review the plan and decide if tolls are allowed to be charged.  The Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, a prominent highway construction trade association in the state, came out on March 24, 2021 to oppose the idea.  While the group generally supports tolling to fund projects, Executive Vice President Robert Latham explained to the House Transportation Committee that the cost of private financing would drive up project costs and relying on tolling to cover construction costs is risky.

The State Senate passed a bill on April 28, 2021 to force PennDOT to start the planning process over by providing more transparency about its proposals, publicly advertising them, opening the plan up to public comments, and seeking approval from both the governor and the Legislature.  The bill passed 28 to 19 with support from all of the Republican senators and one Democrat senator.  During the floor debate, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, citing successful transportation funding efforts have usually required cooperation between lawmakers, said "This initiative and the way it is being advanced is totally counter to that legacy."  Senator John Sabatina from Philadelphia said, "As much as I loathe to tax my constituents to fix a bridge, I'd rather tax them than have them suffer through a catastrophe when the Girard Point Bridge falls down."  He added, sooner or later "a bridge is going to collapse and we're all going to look at each other and say, 'how did that happen?  How could we have prevented that?'"   The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, but it will probably not go further as Governor Wolf opposes it and the Senate lacks a veto-proof majority.

On July 16, 2021, US Representative Guy Reschenthaler proposed an amendment to the annual transportation funding bill to prohibit PennDOT from using federal money if it imposes tolls on bridges or roadways that are part of the federal highway system.  "This is nothing more than a tax on Pennsylvania's workers and families who use these bridges every day to travel to work and school," Representative Reschenthaler said during the introduction to his amendment during a markup hearing by the House Appropriations Committee.  "It would disproportionately impact our nation's tradesmen, medical professionals, and others who aren't part of what I call the 'Zoom class,'" he added.  The amendment was rejected by a 33 to 24 vote.  US Representative David Price, chair of the subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, said that it was outside the jurisdiction of the committee to rule of state tolling plans and punish states for imposing certain tolls.  "It would pre-empt the commonwealth's authority to make decisions on this at the local or state level where the authority currently lies," Representative Price said.  It would "be reconstituting this committee as the Pennsylvania Board of Transportation."  While not completely endorsing the tolling plan, the Federal Highway Administration acknowledged that PennDOT is considering the right options when looking at new sources of revenue in a statement they issued in mid-October 2021 in what is referred to as a "concurrence."

The plan suffered a setback on November 16, 2021 when the Pennsylvania House passed a bill to void the proposal.  State representatives voted 125 to 74 to require legislative approval to add tolls as well as requiring PennDOT to publicly advertise any toll proposals, take public comments, and require approval from both the governor and Legislature.  The legislation requires a Senate vote but faces opposition from Governor Tom Wolf.  While the United States Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act ten days earlier, the tolling plan would pay for the repair or reconstruction of the bridges and keep the influx of federal dollars for other projects across the state.  "We are all elected to represent our areas and have a voice for them, but the way this transpired, we did not have a voice," said Representative Sheryl Delozier, whose district would be affected by proposed tolls on the John Harris Memorial Bridge on Interstate 83 in Harrisburg.  Representative Mike Carroll of Luzerne County, the ranking Democrat on the Transportation Committee, cited Republicans having turned aside a Democratic proposal to require approval of specific projects by the Legislature when the Public Private Transportation Partnership was approved by the majority Republican General Assembly in 2012.  "It was your caucus' idea," Representative Carroll told House Republicans.  "You voted for it — your caucus.  You advanced it to Governor Corbett and he signed it."  Representative Tim Hennessey, the Transportation Committee chairman, mentioned the new infrastructure bill being a "sudden influx of money" which could be used to fund bridge repairs.  "Frankly, the citizens of Pennsylvania will have a hard time understanding the need for tolling in light of that," Representative Hennessey said.  However, Representative Carroll warned that "Every single county in the state will have projects that do not get done if we have to dedicate $2 billion of the $4 billion to fix nine bridges."

On January 10, 2022, the Cumberland County commissioners adopted a resolution stating their opposition to the proposed tolling of the John Harris Memorial Bridge.  All three commissioners signed the resolution which stated that an estimated 125,000 vehicles daily would adversely impact the county's West Shore with traffic trying to avoid the toll.  The resolution highlights other potential consequences including negative financial impacts on businesses having to pay the toll, decreased business at stores and restaurants that would see increased traffic near their establishments, and increased congestion which could delay first responders.  It also mentions an impact on low- to moderate-income populations on both sides of the Susquehanna who use the bridge to get to work.  Brett Hambright, a spokesman for the commissioners, said they are "at a loss for how this tolling concept would benefit our residents and commuters, or how it would make Dauphin County a more attractive prospect for homeowners, renters, leisure-seekers, students, or workers."  He added, "The concept has been met with sharp criticism and loud objection from all communication lines" including residents and local government officials.  The cost to replace the bridge is in the $600 to $700 million range, and if funded through traditional means, would wipe out a full year of Interstate project funding and nearly one-third of PennDOT's current $1.9 billion annual overall construction program according to spokeswoman Alexis Campbell.  If approved, tolling would begin in 2022 with construction starting on a new ten-lane span downriver in 2025 and lasting seven to eight years.

On February 24, 2022, PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian told the Senate Appropriations Committee at a hearing on the 2022-2023 budget that the department is willing to consider alternatives to tolling but hasn't seen any other ideas that would generate the $2.5 billion needed to replace the nine bridges.  She said the state is about $8.1 billion short on needed road and bridge funding every year, and the department is proposing a public-private partnership where the bridges would be turned over to a private company for replacement and maintenance for 30 years with the tolls paying the cost.  Ms. Gramian stressed the importance keeping the nine bridges open without weight restrictions and replacing them before they have to be closed.  The still will receive $4 billion over five years through the federal infrastructure program, but that will just address the shortfall.  She said the state needs to spend $1 billion of its own money to get that, so the state will still be short.  The department was in the process of reviewing proposals from two teams of contractors that submitted formal proposals after three had originally expressed interest in the project.  They refused to identify the group which dropped out and expected to choose a contractor within the following weeks.  One of the proposals was from a group with an international firm as the leader and the other a national firm.  Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Wayne Langerholc, Jr. questioned why specifications were written to exclude Pennsylvania firms from being the lead.  PennDOT’s director of the Alternative Funding Program, Ken McClain, said only large firms have the capacity to handle projects of this size, but the contract will be written so that Pennsylvania firms get 65% of the work.  Under questioning from Senator Devlin Robinson, McClain said the bridges were picked because they were all built in the early 1960s, have deterioration, need upgrades such as wider shoulders and higher side railings, and were chosen to give geographical balance to distribute the impact.  He added the department is committed to keeping any excess money beyond usage for construction, maintenance, and a reserve fund, from tolling for projects in the area of the tolled bridge.  Studies would have been conducted after tolls were implemented to see whether a large volume of motorists were using local roads to avoid the toll and make improvements on those roads where needed.

On March 9, 2022, the Department of Transportation announced it had picked a consortium of companies, now called Bridging Pennsylvania Partners, to manage construction on up to nine bridges.  It said the group was chosen from among three finalists, but it had not decided which of the nine bridges would be eventually tolled.  The winning applications included three international firms:  US-based subsidiaries of Israel-based Shikun & Binui, a development subsidiary of Australia-based Macquarie Group, and Spanish construction firm FCC Construcción.  The application included four other firms which specialize in design or heavy construction and have US-based parent companies with a headquarters in Pennsylvania.  PennDOT and the consortium was to have entered into a "pre-development agreement" to finalize the design and packing of the bridges to be built, financed, and maintained.  The department was in the midst of conducting public hearings and environmental reviews on the bridges.  The first bridges was scheduled to be under contract by December 2022, and after the design process, construction expected to begin between Fall 2023 and Spring 2024.

One of the final steps before tolling could begin was that the Federal Highway Administration would have to review the plans.  US Representative Glenn "GT" Thompson met with the FHWA during the week of March 6 to raise concerns over the PennDOT program, specifically the "grave economic and safety impacts these proposals will have on the local communities and the Commonwealth."  The administration said that the Department of Transportation would have to go through the National Environmental Policy Act process for each bridge that is planned to be tolled.  The NEPA evaluates environmental and related social and economic effects of a proposed action and includes citizen involvement.  "While FHWA does not have the authority to outright reject PennDOT’s bridge tolling proposals, it does have a duty to provide adequate oversight of the process, which to this point, has had zero accountability to anyone – most of all to local stakeholders and the traveling public," Thompson said.  "While this will slow the pace of PennDOT’s proposals, the Biden Administration should not turn a blind eye to PennDOT’s haphazard plans."  Secretary Yassmin Gramian reported that PennDOT reached out to more than 60,000 homes and businesses statewide, but did not indicate how they felt about the proposed bridge tolling.  "The Secretary likes to boast that public engagement and feedback has been central to PennDOT`s bridge tolling plan," Thompson said.  "However, we know that more than 90% of Pennsylvanians vehemently oppose bridge tolling."

The Dauphin County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution on March 16, 2022 stating numerous reasons for objecting to the bridge tolling plan.  Among them is it would place a financial burden on residents at a time when cost of living continues to climb, residents are critical of the idea, and safety concerns arising from traffic avoiding the tolls via secondary roadways.  Moreover, they said alternative funding sources such as a tax on electric vehicles and the $1.6 billion the state is receiving from the federal infrastructure bill could help pay for the bridge program.  "Considering everything that’s currently taking place at the gas pumps, along with supply chain issues, after having received billions of dollars in Pennsylvania…to see and know all this and still continue to push for a bridge tolling on residents and those who transport for a living might be the most tone deaf move of all time," said commission Chairman Mike Pries.  "Either they simply don’t have their finger on the pulse of the people or they simply don’t care.  Neither is acceptable."  With PennDOT making a decision on a design and construction group to manage the project, it triggered the commissioners to act on the resolution and request a meeting with Governor Tom Wolf in hopes they could convince him to halt tolling the John Harris Memorial Bridge.  Dauphin County Commissioner Chad Saylor said the commissioners understand the need to take care of the bridge that is nearing the end of its serviceable life and that it is vital to the county's economy but "there are other ways to do it."  Minority Commissioner George Hartwick called the tolling proposal a "knee-jerk reaction because of the bad financial position of PennDOT without exploring other revenue options is absolutely the worst type of government."  State Representative Patty Kim of Dauphin County was in attendance at the commissioners' meeting where the resolution was passed.  "Out of the thousands of bridges that need repaired or replaced, we are only one of nine bridges to be considered" for tolling, Kim said.  "Today’s resolution will send a strong message that they need to consider another bridge, not a commuter bridge like ours."

A lawsuit was filed against PennDOT on March 22, 2022 by officials from seven West Shore entities:  Camp Hill, Lemoyne, New Cumberland, Lower Allen Township, East Pennsboro Township, and Cumberland County.  The lone Dauphin County municipality joining in is West Hanover Township.  The suit contends that the Public Private Transportation Partnership did not identify specific bridges when passing the resolution in November 2020, consult with affected municipalities before selecting the candidate bridges, nor give the General Assembly any fair opportunity to block the proposal since specific projects were not identified until after the review window had nearly expired.  "Our goal in joining this effort is to protect our communities and residents from the severe economic burden they will suffer from the tolls, as well as the substantial increase in traffic congestion that will impact public health and safety and harm infrastructure," said Alissa Packer, president of Camp Hill Borough Council.  Dauphin County has opted not to engage in litigation, instead betting on talks with the Wolf Administration on the issue.  Mayor Wanda Williams of Harrisburg is also interested in talks according to city spokesman Matt Maisel.  "The City of Harrisburg is strongly opposed to any and all plans to toll the South Bridge," Maisel said.  "While we recognize the rights of our fellow municipalities to file a lawsuit, we will not be joining them at this time."  The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, and solicitor for three of the participating municipalities, Lee Stinnett, said his clients are opening to adding more plaintiffs as the case progresses, but want to get to court as soon as possible now that PennDOT has selected a consortium of firms to manage the program.

All of this back-and-forth would be for naught when on May 18, 2022, Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler granted a preliminary injunction to halt the tolling plans.  The ruling came in response to the lawsuit filed by municipalities in the Harrisburg area that objected to tolling the John Harris Memorial Bridge on Interstate 83.  A PennDOT spokesperson said that evening that they were reviewing the opinion.  The judge's order prohibits PennDOT from taking any further action which includes conducting studies, hearings or meetings, design development, right-of-way acquisition, tolling, construction, or expenditure of any funds.  On April 25, PennDOT argued in court that the municipalities lacked standing to bring their complaints and had no active claim because any claimed impact from the project hadn't occurred yet.  In her opinion, Judge Ceisler wrote that the municipalities involved in the suit do indeed have standing to state a claim as they have both a substantial and direct interest in the matter.  Furthermore, she wrote that the petitioners were denied proper procedure when PennDOT approved the Pathways Bridge Public-Private Partnership (P3) without consulting them, and that not identifying specific bridges in the initiative was a violation by the board.   "[The Act] plainly requires this consultation to precede approval: the Board’s duty is to consult with those affected by 'proposed' transportation projects, not projects already approved," Ceisler wrote. "All evidence in the record points to the conclusion that the board did not consult with affected persons before approving the initiative; instead, it (or, more accurately, [PennDOT]) purported to do so afterward, once specific bridges were announced."  The judge also found the board never showed any finding that the partnership was in the best interest of the Commonwealth as required by law.  "At best, the board’s interest determination is implicit; at worst, the board failed to make any finding at all," the judge wrote.  "The board essentially approved a massive multi-billion dollar infrastructure initiative on an admittedly meager record, consisting of a 4-page recommendation from [PennDOT], a presentation, and minimal discussion, and without understanding which, or how many, pieces of public infrastructure the initiative would affect."

Even still, a group of Republican state senators held a rally at the state capitol on June 8 to protest the tolling of the nine bridges.  The lawmakers were joined by members of the No P3 Bridge Tolling coalition, a group of chambers of commerce, business owners, and local officials that was created to oppose PennDOT's tolling plan.  It turns out, on June 30, 2022, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court permanently blocked the plan to toll the nine bridges.  PennDOT spokesperson Alexis Campbell said the legislature "failed" to offer solutions beyond the P3 program to assist with infrastructure funding.  She said the department was reviewing the opinion when asked if PennDOT indented to appeal to the state Supreme Court.  "The Wolf administration continues to welcome discussions with the General Assembly on alternative funding sources that can replace the gas tax, which is no longer a dependable source of funding to meet all bridge and highway needs in this commonwealth," she said.

In the aftermath of the decision, US Representative Glenn "GT" Thompson called on Secretary of Transportation, Yassmin Gramian, to resign.  "For more than a year, I have voiced my concerns to PennDOT Secretary Gramian that the agency was putting forth an untenable tolling proposal.  Along the way, she made it clear through her actions that public engagement was merely an afterthought.  This was apparent when she refused to take questions from federal and state legislators at a field hearing last spring in Clarion.  Under Secretary Gramian, PennDOT has wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer funds through her quest to impose a new tax upon Pennsylvanians and the traveling public," Rep. Thompson said.  "She has violated both the law and the public’s trust — Secretary Gramian should resign, effective immediately."  In response, the Wolf Administration issued the following response:  "It is unfortunate that Congressman Thompson– who voted NO on the legislation that is now the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law– is wasting taxpayer time and money spewing false claims regarding PennDOT’s public engagement. Instead of playing political games, the congressman’s time would be better spent working on a solution for alternative funding sources that will support Governor Wolf’s desire to phase out Pennsylvania’s gas tax. Pennsylvanians deserve solutions, not pr stunts.  Secretary Gramian is an incredible leader and highly-qualified infrastructure expert with more than 30 years of experience in the industry.  The governor is proud she serves the commonwealth, and that she will continue to do so."

Even with the courts putting the kybosh on the plan, PennDOT could still work with the group of contractors and investors led by Australian-based Macquarie Infrastructure Developments, LLC known as the Bridging Pennsylvania Partners.  The only problem is that the department would still need to find a way to fund the work, which for all nine bridges, would add up to about $2.5 billion.  A bill passed by the General Assembly on July 7 and signed by Governor Tom Wolf on July 11, puts more restrictions on how public-private partnerships can be established.  The bill also allows the state to move forward with Macquarie so it doesn't lose $14.8 million in preliminary work the group and PennDOT had done over the previous 18 months, as well as giving the General Assembly more time to review partnership deals.  "Now that [the bill] is officially official, we'll get rolling," said PennDOT spokesperson Alexis Campbell.  "These bridges are important and we want to make sure we can get them done and have as much money available as possible to get our other work done."  A spokesperson for Macquarie said the state has informed them to be on stand-by while it decides how to proceed.  If it walks away from the deal, the state would owe the company a relatively small amount of money.

Just before 3 PM on the afternoon of August 24, 2022, a dump truck traveling northbound with its bed raised about 45 degrees struck the PA 74/Queen Street overpass.  When the truck hit the bridge, the bed became lodged underneath between the bridge and road surface and cracked the outermost beams as well as damaged the Interstate's surface as it broke from the truck.  The truck driver, who received a careless driving citation, was injured and taken to York Hospital for treatment.  A vehicle that was passing under the bridge had its windshield shattered by flying debris and another front end damage.  Interstate 83 was immediately closed at Exit 16, with northbound traffic being detoured off at PA 182 and southbound traffic at PA 74 which was also closed at the bridge.  Once the bed was removed by cutting it in several places, crews then stabilized the two beams that were damaged.  PennDOT estimates it will cost $1 million to $1.5 million to repair.  Interstate 83 reopened the following day around 2:20 PM along with, but the right lane of PA 74 southbound on the bridge remains closed.

Only six months earlier on February 24, a truck traveling in the same direction hit the same overpass with the boom of the excavator it was hauling.  In fact, PennDOT had been working on repair plans for that strike when the second one happened.  At that time, temporary repairs were also made with permanent ones to entail replacing some of the damaged beams, heat straightening of others, painting parts of the bridge, and removing and replacing parts of the bridge deck and the barrier located above the damage.  Repairs at the time were estimated to cost $600,000, which are to be paid by the trucking company.  The driver that time was cited for out of service criteria, exceeding 8-feet, 6-inches in width, exceeding height allowance, and operating with unsafe equipment.  The Queen Street overpass has only 14-feet, 2-inches of clearance in the southbound direction but meets the standard 16-feet height Interstate requirement in the northbound direction.

Exit Guide
Interstate 83 Business Routes
Interstate 83 Ends
Interstate 83 Pictures
Capital Beltway Map
US 111 (Decommissioned)
I-83 Master Plan - PennDOT
Interstate 83 - Andy Field/Alex Nitzman
Interstate 83 - David Steinberg
Interstate 83 Pictures - Andy Field/Alex Nitzman
Interstate 83 Pictures - Steve Alpert
Interstate 83 Photos - Valerie Deane

Southern Entrance: Maryland state line four miles south of Shrewsbury
Northern Terminus: I-81 at Exit 70 in Harrisburg
Length: 50.40 miles
National Highway System: Entire length
Names: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Memorial Highway
Harrisburg-York-Baltimore Expressway
Capital Beltway:  Exit 41A to Exit 51
Susquehanna Expressway
SR Designation: 0083
Counties: York, Cumberland, and Dauphin
Multiplexed Route: US 322:  Exit 48 to I-81
Former Designations: US 111 (1952 - 1963):  Exit 33 to Exit 39A
US 111 (1954 - 1963):  Exit 39A to Exit 41B
Bypass US 230 (1954 - 1961):  Exit 46A to Exit 50
US 111 (1955 - 1963):  Exit 28 to Exit 33
US 111 (1958 - 1963):  Exit 22 to Exit 28
US 111 (1959 - 1963):  Maryland state line to Exit 15
US 111 (1960 - 1963):  Exit 16 to 22 and Exit 41B to Exit 42
US 111 (1961 - 1963):  Exit 42 to Exit 50
Former LR Designations: 127 Parallel:  Maryland state line to Exit 15
789:  Exit 15 to Exit 22
333:  Exit 22 to the Dauphin County line
767:  Cumberland County line to Exit 46
768:  Exit 46 to Interstate 81
Emergency: 911
Traffic Cameras:
US 30
PA 238
Mile Marker 31
PA 114
PA 581
John Harris Bridge
13th Street
19th Street
US 322
Derry Street
Union Deposit Road
US 22

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Page updated September 30, 2022.
Content and graphics, unless otherwise noted, copyright © Jeffrey J. Kitsko. All rights reserved.
Information sign courtesy of Richard C. Moeur.
Information courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Harrisburg Patriot-News, the Easton Express-Times, United Alert, WGAL-TV Lancaster, WPMT-TV York, the York Dispatch, the York Daily Record, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, KDKA-TV Pittsburgh, WTAE-TV Pittsburgh, WTAJ-TV Altoona, Greensburg Tribune-Review, WHTM-TV Harrisburg, WPMT-TV York, and KYW-TV Philadelphia.