What to Know
- Drivers will be forced off the eastbound Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia this weekend as crews replace part of the roadway.
- The closure of Interstate 76 from 30th Street to South Street goes from 11 p.m. Friday and through 5 a.m. Monday.
- Get detours and tips on avoiding the expected traffic in this story.
Drivers in Philadelphia are in for another weekend of traffic headaches on I-76.
With the Philadelphia Eagles off and fewer people heading toward the stadium complex, a stretch of the Schuylkill Expressway, one of the busiest roads in Philadelphia, will be closed for construction. So, plan on seeking an alternate route or sitting in some extra traffic.
PennDOT will close eastbound Interstate 76 from 30th Street to South Street Friday night through Monday morning so that crews can redeck the surface of the viaduct.
The closure is similar to the ones that have taken place in recent weekends, so drivers could be a bit more familiar with what to expect, but there is still plenty to be aware of so you are prepared.
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We answer your questions below:
When Will the Schuylkill Expressway Close?
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to close the about 4,000-foot stretch of I-76 eastbound at 11 p.m. Friday. Crews will then work around the clock until reopening the expressway by 5 a.m. Monday. The weekend work only affects eastbound drivers.
Prior to the complete closure, the eastbound direction will be reduced to one lane starting at 9 p.m. Friday.
PennDOT spokesman Brad Rudolph said they don’t want any construction closures to bleed into the Monday morning rush.
What Part of I-76 Will Be Detoured This Weekend?
The stretch of roadway from the 30th Street to South Street exits.
How Many Vehicles Use I-76 in Philly?
About 130,00 vehicles speed (or inch along due to the heavy traffic) over the stretch of I-76 daily, PennDOT said. Those drivers will need to go a different way this weekend.
Why the Eagles Help in the Decision to Close the Highway?
PennDOT considers all sorts of factors when picking the best time to do major roadwork, Rudolph said. With the Eagles on their bye week, the impact of the closure is lessened.
With the Birds back in town the following two weekends, don't expect the roadway to be closed entirely for a weekend again until December.
What Will Crews Be Doing to the Schuylkill Expressway Viaduct?
The construction project of replacing the viaduct, which was first built in 1960, is a daunting one as crews are in the process of fixing 289 spans.
You might not have noticed on a recent drive, but some of the spans have already been redone as crews are now working on the roadway past the tunnel-like section as they head toward the University Avenue Interchange, Rudolph said.
The weekend work being done by hand and machinery includes peeling back the viaduct decking and cutting through rebar to strip spans all the way down.
“They are basically taking it all the way down to the original deck,” Rudolph said.
Luckily, due to quick-drying cement, the work can be done in just hours, rather than weeks.
Once the deck is stripped, crews will lay down a quick-drying Polyester Polymer Concrete. The synthetic concrete, which can only be applied under dry conditions, allows "the viaduct’s surface to be rehabilitated while minimizing the need for long-term lane closures that are required for curing conventional concrete pavement," PennDOT said.
The number of spans replaced this weekend is dependent on the condition of each section. Getting down the original deck sometimes takes longer as "we don’t know what we are going to uncover," Rudolph added.
How Do I Get Around the Weekend Schuylkill Expressway Closures?
The detours utilize surface roads through University City or other interstates.
Through drivers coming into Philly from the northwestern suburbs can get off I-76 eastbound at the Vine Street Expressway (interstate 676). You can then continue eastbound on I-676 to Interstate 95 south. You can then pick back up I-76 near the Walt Whitman Bridge or continue toward the stadium complex and airport.
For people looking to get back on I-76 at University, you can exit at 30th Street then follow the road around the station. Drivers can then turn right on Market Street, left on 38th Street and straight on University Avenue to 34th Street to access the ramp to eastbound I-76.
Detour signs and digital boards will be posted, PennDOT said.
Is There a Detour Shortcut I Can Use?
Yes, there's a hack for you shortcut-seeking drivers. You can get back onto I-76 from the South Street Bridge, which is accessible from Spruce and 34th streets in University City and 27th and South streets from Center City.
How Do I Avoid the I-76 Closure Entirely?
“If people know it is closed they take alternate routes and mitigate the backups,” Rudolph said.
The Kelly Drive on the other side of the Schuylkill River can be used to get into Center City.
Martin Luther King Drive, which runs parallel to I-76 leading up to the closure is a good option except from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday when the Rocky Run takes it over.
The best bet is to avoid driving into town at all by taking SEPTA Regional Rail.
Which I-76 Ramps Will Be Closed? (And, a Snag for Drivers on I-676)
Drivers won’t be able to access eastbound I-76 from the Walnut Street ramp during both weekends. Drivers will be forced up to 38th Street to then access I-76 eastbound at University Avenue. Or, can get to the South Street Bridge.
Drivers wanting to go east on I-76 who don’t get off I-676 by the 22nd Street Exit will need to access the 30th Street Station part of the ramp, which remains open through the closure, then take surface roads.
The best bet for drivers wanting to use the I-76 east ramp from I-676 could be to get off at Broad Street or 22nd Street and take surface roads to the South Street Bridge.
Will the Highway Be Completely Open During the Week?
The short answer is no.
At 9 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday through 5 a.m. the following day, I-76 eastbound will be reduced to a single lane from 30th Street to University Ave so that crews can rehab the overhead viaduct, PennDOT said. If weather prevents any work during those overnights, the work could be pushed to between 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, and 6 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 16.
There could be slow-moving traffic patterns eastbound and westbound between the City Avenue and Passyunk Avenue exits, between 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day Tuesday through Friday, so that crews can remove traffic control signs, PennDOT warned.
Also note that the westbound I-76 ramp to 30th Street could be periodically restricted from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week so that crews can place concrete under the viaduct, PennDOT said.
Another I-76 Traffic Snag to Watch Out for Next Week
Lanes of the Montgomery County stretch of I-76 in both directions from Gulph Mills (Route 320) to the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be closed overnights so that crews can clean pipes and do inspections. The restrictions run from 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday through 5 a.m. the next morning.
The goal of the work is to remediate four sinkhole locations in the U.s.s Route 202 Interchange area.
Will I-76 Be Closed for Weekends Again This Year?
Yes, depending on big events happening in the city. This is all part of a $39.8-million project to revamp three separate viaducts on the busy Schuylkill Expressway.
Crews have begun on the eastbound lanes, already closing the roadway multiple weekends starting over the summer. Rudolph said more weekendlong closures are expected before the end of the year.
The plan is to begin a similar redecking process on the westbound lanes of I-76 in Philadelphia in 2020.
What Could Delay the Viaduct Repair Project?
Mostly wet weather as crews need dry conditions to utilize the quick-drying synthetic concrete. Clear conditions are expected this weekend.