Interstate 81 (I-81) is an 855-mile interstate highway with a general North-South orientation, traversing six states from Tennessee to New York. Within Pennsylvania, I-81, also known as the American Legion Memorial Highway, traverses the eastern half of the state.
Project Type:Limited Access Road Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:39,720 Length (mi):234.00
Economic Distress:1.10 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):282 Population Growth Rate (%):0.26
Employment Growth Rate (%):1.23 Market Size:213,213 Airport Travel Distance:31.8307 Topography:16
Region:New England/Mid-Atlantic State:PA County:County
City:Connects Harrisburg to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Urban/Class Level:Mixed Local Area:N/A
Impact Area:County Transportation System:N/A GIS Lat/Long:39.990994 / -77.561009
Initial Study Date:N/A Post Constr. Study Date:2002
Constr. Start Date:1957 Constr. End Date:1969
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): N/A Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):442,950,000 Actual Cost (curr $):3,116,616,466
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||465005000.00||334797000.00||799802000.00|
|Output (in $M's)||1396280000.00||1005300000.00||2401580000.00|
Interstate 81 (I-81) is an 855-mile interstate highway with a general North-South orientation, traversing six states from Tennessee to New York. Within Pennsylvania, I-81, also known as the American Legion Memorial Highway, traverses the eastern half of the Commonwealth, passing though the metropolitan areas of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Harrisburg. The interstate facilitates the movement of people, goods, and services among the relatively smaller population centers along the route, and provides an alternative to the more heavily travelled I-95. I-81 facilitates a relatively high degree of truck traffic and has fostered the development of logistics, distribution, and various manufacturing establishments along the route. It is estimated that the highway contributed a total of approximately 20,000 jobs.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
In Pennsylvania, I-81 is a 234-mile corridor passing through eight counties in the eastern portion of the Commonwealth. The highway connects with the western peninsula of Maryland and then passes through West Virginia and Virginia at the southern border. North of Pennsylvania, I-81 passes through Binghamton, New York and continues north through Syracuse and then to Canada. The route generally runs north-south. The southern portion within the Commonwealth, from New Castle through Harrisburg to Chambersburg, is aligned in a more northeast-southwest direction. I-81 travels through the following eight Pennsylvania counties: Franklin, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon, Schuylkill, Luzerne, Lackawanna, and Susquehanna, and connects the cities of Chambersburg, Harrisburg, New Castle, Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.
I-81 intersects with several major east-west highways, providing connections with the major population centers along the north and mid-Atlantic coastline. In and around Harrisburg, I-81 connects with I-83 to Baltimore, I-76 east to Philadelphia and west to Pittsburg, and I-78 directly to New York City. In Luzerne County, I-81 connects with I-80, again providing a general north-south connection with an east-west route feeding New York City. In the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metropolitan area, I-81 connects with I-476 to Philadelphia, I-380 towards New York City (via I-80), and I-84.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
In eastern Pennsylvania, the corridor runs through old coal mining and manufacturing territory. The majority of the corridor is rural, although it does pass through various urban centers, including the capital, Harrisburg. As of the year 2000, the population of the combined eight counties through which the highway passes was 1.46 million and has increased by only about 100,000 since 1970, a relatively stagnant growth rate. Employment in 2002 was about 867,000 and has appreciated at a slightly faster rate than population.
Plans for the construction of a limited access divided highway through eastern Pennsylvania precede the enactment of the Federal-Aid Highways Act of 1956, when officials planned for an extension to the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Scranton to the New York State line. After the passage of the federal legislation, the responsibility for the design and construction of the highway corridor was assumed by the Federal Department of Highways and I-81 was incorporated into the Interstate Highway System. Interstate 81 was designed as a general north-south route alignment for movement through the Allegheny Mountain range.
In Pennsylvania, I-81 construction began in 1958. The final segment was completed in 1976, making I-81 a continuous route between the Pennsylvania borders with Maryland and New York. It cost an estimated $443 million.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
In addition to significant local passenger and commercial traffic, I-81 is heavily trafficked by trucks moving through the corridor due its geographic location, north-south orientation, and proximity (i.e., same-day drive time) to major population centers along the Atlantic coast. Segments of I-81 exhibit the highest percentages of truck traffic relative to total traffic of the entire interstate system. It is considered one of the most strategically important north-south trucking routes. On some segments one in three vehicles is a heavy commercial vehicle. Originally, the interstate system was designed to accommodate truck traffic that constitutes only fifteen percent of all vehicular traffic. I-81 is well beyond that design threshold for a majority of the segments within the Commonwealth.
A significant portion of the heavy commercial vehicle traffic moves goods between the manufacturing and distribution centers and major population concentrations along the route and along the eastern seaboard. I-81 serves as a viable north-south alternative to the more congested and sometimes tolled portions of I-95.
Due to the concentration of heavy commercial vehicles along the route, there have been safety concerns raised by passenger vehicle traffic. Options put forward for limiting heavy vehicle traffic on I-81include truck-only lanes, highway expansion, and alternative transportation mode development to divert trucks from the highway.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
Despites its role in connecting major manufacturing and population centers, the Interstate 81 corridor in Pennsylvania has not developed as robustly as the peripheral areas it serves. Economic development surrounding the corridor has been concentrated in trucking, warehousing, and distribution facilities, especially south of Harrisburg. To a lesser extent, similar developments have occurred in the northern portion of the corridor. Clusters of industrial development have occurred within a narrow band adjacent to the interstate. The region beyond has remained relatively underdeveloped and has retained a rural character, due in part to the mountainous topography of the Alleghany Mountains (especially in Southern Pennsylvania).
The southern portion of the corridor (south of I-78) increased in population by 22.6 percent between 1970 and 2000, while the northern portion exhibited a population decline of 3.9 percent. Population in Pennsylvania as a whole grew by 4.0 percent in the same time period. Employment increase overall along the interstate. Like population, employment growth in the southern portion of the corridor (60.9 %) outpaced that of the northern portion (15.3%) between 1972 and 2002. Employment changes within the corridor region have resulted from a shift in industry composition, with a steady decline in the previously strong manufacturing base and a gradual shift toward service and transportation and trade industries.
In the southern portion of the corridor, employment in the trade industries almost doubled between 1969 and 2000, from 54,000 to almost 108,000. Transportation and utilities employment increased during that same timeframe from 17,000 to almost 32,000. In the northern portion of the corridor, that appreciation has been less marked in absolute or percentage terms. However, the general trend of an industry compositional shift towards trade, services, and transportation, away from manufacturing, has occurred.
It is difficult to isolate the highway's impact on economic development, However, the distribution, warehousing, and trucking firms that have located throughout the corridor, and especially in the southern portion, have likely occurred primarily because of the development of the Interstate there and the utilization of that corridor for long-distance commercial traffic.
In the two southern-most counties along the corridor, Franklin and Cumberland, the trucking and warehousing industry accounted for 17,000 jobs and $1.69 billion in direct economic output in 2006. Including indirect and induced economic impacts, the trucking and warehousing industries are credited with supporting 28,000 jobs and producing $2.5 billion in total economic output in 2006.
Local officials indicate that the trucking and distribution industry, especially in the southern portion of the Commonwealth, would not have located in the corridor without the presence of the Interstate, and the area would have remained very rural with limited development. Along the northern portion of the route, it is likely that most, but not all of the employment in the transportation and warehousing industries is a direct result of the access provided by the interstate. It is estimated that the highway contributed a total of approximately 20,000 jobs in all sectors.
A number of non-transportation factors have significantly influenced economic development in the I-81 corridor in Pennsylvania. Foremost among these is the continued strong growth of the markets on the east coast which are served by the I-81 corridor.
The corridor serves as an alternative route to I-95 and the major metropolitan centers along the Atlantic coast. Due to the increasingly congested conditions on I-95 and the limited developable land surrounding that corridor in places such as New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., the future of I-81 seems promising with new opportunities. Exorbitant land values, relatively higher labor costs, and local taxes in the major metropolitan areas have pushed some logistics operations into periphery areas, including areas along I-81.
There is no coordinated effort to develop a cohesive economic development plan for the corridor. In Pennsylvania, economic development planning is conducted at the municipal level. A multistate I-81 Corridor Coalition is currently in the developmental stages, with an eye toward enhancing economic growth in the corridor.
South Central Pennsylvania Regional Goods Movement Study. Prepared for the Harrisburg Area Transportation Study South Central Pennsylvania Regional Goods Movement Steering Committee by Cambridge Systematics, Inc., with Global Insight, PB Farradyne, and A Struss-Wieder, Inc. November 2006.
Marr, Paul, PhD, Scott Drzyzga PhD, George Pomeroy, PhD, and James Biles, PhD. Economic and Transportation Impact of Warehousing on Rural Pennsylvania. April 11, 2008.
Fuellhart, Kurt and Paul Marr. Geographic and Economic Assessment of Trucking and Warehousing in South-Central Pennsylvania. Center for Land Use at Shippensburg University. June 2006.I-81 Corridor Improvement Study. Prepared for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation by Pennoni Associates, Inc. August 2007.
OrganizationSchuylkill Economic Development Office Center for Land Use ? Shippensburg University Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance