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 University Avenue goes from 11 p.m. Friday and through 5 a.m. Monday
- PennDOT is urging drivers to be prepared to take alternate routes.
Heading to the Phillies game, airport, half marathon, Burger Brawl or just going downtown this weekend? A stretch of the Schuylkill Expressway, one of the busiest roads in Philadelphia, will be closed for a construction project.
PennDOT plans to close more than a mile of eastbound Interstate 76 from 30th Street to University Avenue Friday night through Monday morning so that crews can redeck the surface of the roadway, which is a viaduct at that point.
With plenty going on this weekend, NBC10 wants to make sure you are prepared for the closure and know how to avoid the potential Friday the 13th nightmare.
We answer your questions below:
When Will the Schuylkill Expressway Close?
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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to close the 6,120-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 work only affects eastbound drivers.
PennDOT spokesman Brad Rudolph said they don’t want any construction closures to bleed into the Monday morning rush.
What Stretch of I-76 Will Be Detoured This Weekend?
The roadway from the 30th Street to University Avenue exits.
What Will Construction Crews Be Doing to the I-76 Viaduct?
The 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.
The work being done this weekend 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.
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 Many Vehicles Normally Use I-76 in Philly?
About 130,00 vehicles speed (or inch due to the heavy traffic) over the 1.15-mile stretch of I-76 daily, PennDOT said. Those drivers will need to find a different route this weekend.
What Are the Detours Around the Weekend Schuylkill Expressway Closure?
The detours utilize surface roads through University City or other interstates.
Through drivers coming into Philly from the northwestern suburbs -- maybe to go to the Phillies-Red Sox games -- 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.
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.
Detours signs and digital boards will be posted, PennDOT said.
How Do I Avoid the I-76 Closure in Philadelphia 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 ahead of the closure, but it could back up. It also will be closed during Sunday morning’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon until noon, so it may be best to seek another route into town.
Martin Luther King Drive, which runs parallel to I-76 leading up to the closure is scheduled to be closed for recreational activity both Saturday and Sunday, so don’t plan on using that to get into town.
The best bet is to avoid driving into town at all by taking SEPTA Regional Rail.
Which I-76 EB Ramps Will Be Closed? (And, a Major Snag for Drivers on the Vine Street Expressway.)
Driver won’t be able to access eastbound I-76 from the Walnut Street ramp this weekend. Drivers will be forced up to 38th Street to then access I-76 eastbound at University Avenue.
The westbound I-676 ramp to I-76 eastbound and 30th Street Station will also be closed. Drivers wanting to go east who don’t get off I-676 by the 22nd Street Exit will be forced onto I-76 westbound to turn around all the way up at Montgomery Drive to then get onto I-76 east toward the closure and detours.
The best bet for drivers wanting to use the I-76 east ramp from I-676 is to get off at Broad Street or 22nd Street and take surface roads. Just beware of closure around Sunday morning’s half marathon.
Will I-76 Be Closed for Anymore Weekends This Year?
Yes, 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 two separate weekends this summer. Rudolph said more weekendlong closures are on the horizon with up to 10 more possible before the end of the year.
Depending on delays, it’s possible the eastbound closures push into 2020, Rudolph said.
The plan is to begin a similar redecking process on the westbound lanes of I-76 in Philadelphia in 2020.
What Could Delay the Project?
Mostly weather as crews need dry conditions to utilize the quick-drying synthetic concrete.
Does the Recent JFK Boulevard Lane Closure Have Anything to Do With this Project?
Earlier this week, PennDOT closed a lane on JFK Boulevard near 30th Street “due to serious deterioration of a bridge column on the structure that carries the highway over SEPTA tracks.”
A future project is in place to address that issue. PennDOT hopes to carry that project out next summer.
Where Are Crews Also Blocking Lanes on Another Major Highway This Weekend?
Drivers should also expect potential slowdowns along the Blue Route (Interstate 476) in Montgomery County Saturday to allow for bridge inspections.
PennDOT will close one lane of I-476 in each direction between Ridge Pike and the Schuylkill Expressway from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
The inspection is "part of PennDOT’s program to inspect bridges at least once every two years to ensure the safety and overall condition of the structures," PennDOT said in a news release.