Purpose and Needs

The Purpose and Need statement is part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Process to document why a project is undertaken. This documentation lays the foundation for identifying and evaluating reasonable alternatives to be considered in environmental and engineering studies.

The Interstate 80 Section 17M project extends from west of Exit 303 in Stroud Township to east of Exit 307 and the Brodhead Creek bridge in East Stroudsburg Borough. The purpose of this project is to provide a safe and efficient transportation system on this National Highway System component for both local and regional connections in the area by:

• reducing future congestion on I-80 in the 2045 design year to Level of Service (LOS) E or better,

• improving safety, and

• bringing the I-80 roadway and bridge structures up to current design standards with no or minimal design exceptions.

The following Project Needs have been identified:

Safety

Recent crash data showing rates above the statewide average indicates a high percentage of rear-end, side swipe, and hit fixed object crashes which can be attributed to the congestion and geometric deficiencies within this Safety Corridor. Geometric deficiencies include:

  • The acceleration and deceleration lane lengths for 9 of the 14 existing movements within the project limits are below PennDOT/AASHTO design criteria. See Table 1 for existing versus criteria lengths. Lack of sufficient length contributes to safety issues throughout the corridor, as indicated by the collision types and numbers shown in the Crash Summary.
  • The Westbound I-80 to SR 209 ramp at Exit 304 and the Main Street to Westbound I-80 ramp at Exit 305 also have an entrance / exit weave which requires a total of 2000 feet based on PennDOT/AASHTO criteria. The available length is 1000 feet. This contributes to the high number of rear-end and hit fixed object collisions in this roadway section.
  • I-80 has varying inside and outside shoulder widths below minimum design criteria. Existing inside shoulders range from 1 foot to 4 feet, with 10 feet to 12 feet minimum required. Outside shoulders are 10 feet, where 12 feet is required. This results in reduced access for emergency vehicles during incidents, as well as the potential for disabled vehicles to impact the travel lanes. See Existing Typical Section.
  • Deteriorated roadway and bridge components cause hazardous conditions under normal use as well requiring frequent lane closures for ongoing maintenance issues. The I-80 corridor in the project area was constructed in the 1950s and early 1960s. The roadway pavement has reached the end of its useful life and is in poor condition. In addition, the I-80 bridge over SR 2009 (Bridge Street) is structurally deficient, with a sufficiency rating of 30.7 and a substructure condition rating of 3.

Congestion

Existing and projected future high traffic volumes, as well as the geometric deficiencies detailed above, contribute to congestion in the project area.

  • Current volumes on I-80 average approximately 47,300-70,500 vehicles per day (2013) with 12% heavy vehicles (trucks). Both overall and truck volumes increase from approximately Exit 305 eastward; overall, truck volumes tend to be heavier eastbound. Design year projections (2045) show volumes of approximately 89,200-132,800 vehicles per day. The additional future traffic will increase congestion, with the entire mainline from Exit 304 to Exit 307 and most ramps operating at LOS F in the No-Build scenario. This will also then increase the potential for conflicts at the interchange acceleration and deceleration ramps, as congested conditions make movements more difficult. See Tables 2-5.
  • Lack of sufficient length for acceleration and deceleration lanes also contributes to the congestion throughout the corridor. This is reflected in the LOS shown in Tables 2-5.

Mobility

  • System continuity is lacking. PennDOT and AASHTO design requirements for interstate systems call for all traffic movements to be available at each interchange. In addition, drivers generally expect full movement availability. Exits 303, 304, and 306 provide only some of the connections available (see Table 6), which contributes to congestion and safety issues in the region, such as the illegal left hand turns made on SR 611 at Exit 303 by exiting eastbound traffic.
  • The project corridor services both local and through traffic, creating conflicts between the types of traffic and deviating from the intent of the Interstate system to facilitate long range travel. A significant portion of the project area traffic is local use that both enters and exits I-80 within the project area. For example, 48% of the traffic entering at the 307 interchange westbound exits at either the 306, 305, or 304 interchanges.
  • Four lanes of traffic, two in each direction, must be maintained on I-80 at all times during construction, except for short term closures necessary for the safe execution of specific construction activities.
  • The Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET) system is the system of roads deemed necessary to support the Department of Defense’s operations. As a component of this system, I- 80 should include minimum vertical clearances of 16’0”, particularly to facilitate freight mobility. PennDOT requires an additional 6 inches of vertical clearance to accommodate future pavement overlay. The existing Exit 303 ramp bridge over I-80 provides 16’0” vertical clearance, the existing Exit 304 ramp bridge over I-80 provides 16’4“, and the existing SR 0191 structure over I-80 provides only 15’0” vertical clearance.

Crash Summary

Five-year crash data records (2008-2012) were obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for the I-80 main line sections within the project area. The following is a summarization of information taken from the crash data records.

A total of 239 crashes were reported over the 3.45 mile reconstruction segment during the five year period (2008-2012), including 43% Hit Fixed Object and 31% Rear-End collisions. These types of crashes on an interstate are typical where congestion and geometry deficiencies exist. Crash rates for seven (7) separate segments were calculated for each direction to compare average crash rates with the current Statewide Accident Average for similar road type, which was obtained from PennDOT Accident Records Systems Homogeneous Report.

The majority of segments display average crash rates that exceed the current statewide average for urban interstates (0.56). The highest average crash rate for crashes grouped by segment within the project area (obtained from PennDOT crash data) occurred in SLD segment 3050/3051 (US 209 ramps at Exit 304), with the crash rates reaching 0.84 (westbound) and 1.09 (eastbound).