Commuters hoping for extra lanes on Interstate 76 will have to wait another four years before that dream becomes a reality.
On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) unveiled the next phase of a multi-pronged effort to alleviate traffic along the often-congested Schuylkill Expressway. Drivers in Montgomery County will start seeing changes between King of Prussia and the Blue Route starting later this month month, state officials announced.
The first phase, which begins later in June, will include installing electronic warning signs alerting drivers to changing speed limits and slowdowns along I-76. Speed limits will change depending on real-time traffic and weather conditions, officials said.
PennDOT hopes the Queue Warning signs will help reduce sudden stopping and prevent rear-end accidents. This first phase will be completed in 2019,officials said.
“We are very focused on investing in and using our technology to make travel safer and smoother,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “This initiative is a fantastic example of how we’re wisely using funds to maximize our existing network and improve mobility in the surrounding communities.”
But perhaps the most intriguing plan for easing traffic is still four years away, officials said.
Construction for the fabled flexible lane project, which would transform the shoulders into extra lanes during peak traffic, won’t begin until 2022. Before that can happen, PennDOT will implement a series of initiatives, including adding meters to ramps, using electronic signs to regulate or close lanes at high-volume interchanges and creating overhead signs to open and close lanes in the event of an accident or disabled car, officials said.
PennDOT will also partner with SEPTA to provide real-time transit information along I-76, including parking information and train departure times.
The entire project is projected to cost around $8.2 million, according to PennDOT. About 80 percent of that price tag will be footed by the federal government with the remaining funds coming from the state.
In addition to changes along the highway, PennDOT will coordinate with Montco and Philly agencies to upgrade the Schuylkill River Trail and other trails near I-76 to create alternative modes of transportation such as biking, carpooling and riding SEPTA.