What to Know
- Drivers will be forced off the eastbound Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia the next two weekends 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.
- Expect other I-76 closures and lane restrictions overnight during the workweek.
Drivers in Philadelphia are in for another couple weekends of traffic headaches on I-76.
With the Philadelphia Eagles on the road 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 for the next two weekends so that crews can redeck the surface of the viaduct.
The closures are 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 (Oct. 18 and Oct. 15). Crews will then work around the clock until reopening the expressway by 5 a.m. Monday (Oct. 21 and Oct. 28). 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. each 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 These Weekends?
PennDOT considers all sorts of factors when picking the best time to do major roadwork, Rudolph said. With the Eagles on the road the next two weekends, the impact of the closure is lessened.
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.
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.
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 scheduled to be closed for recreational activity from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday and will be used by Sunday morning's AIDS Walk, so don’t plan on using that to get into town unless it's at night.
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 the Vine Street Expressway.)
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.
The westbound I-676 ramp to eastbound I-76 will also be closed. 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.
PennDOT is sandwiching overnight westbound lane closures in both directions into the week between (Oct. 21 to 25) the weekend closures.
At 11 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night through 5 a.m. the following morning, I-76 westbound will be closed at 30th Street so that crews can rehab the overhead viaduct, PennDOT said. The highway will be reduced to a single lane each night starting at 9.
The detour for the weeknight westbound closure will take drivers off at 30th Street then onto Schuylkill Avenue before going back on I-76 from the shared ramp with I-676.
From 11 p.m. each night to 5 a.m. the next morning, the eastbound direction around 30th Street Station will be reduced to a single lane so crews can work on the viaduct over the expressway.
Also note that the westbound I-76 ramp to 30th Street could be periodically closed from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week so that crews can place concrete under the viaduct, PennDOT said.
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 will happen before the end of the year, but most likely won't occur the first week of November with the Eagles back in town.
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 Viaduct Repair Project?
Mostly weather as crews need dry conditions to utilize the quick-drying synthetic concrete. The weather for Sunday could be rainy.