Interstate 83 is the main freeway serving the capital city, passing south of Downtown from the John Harris Bridge over the Susquehanna River, to the adjoining borough of Paxtang. I-83 expands to six overall lanes from the east end of PA 581 at Camp Hill to South 17th Street in Harrisburg. Local traffic reports refer to the lane reduction at Exit 44B as the “19th Street Bottleneck.”2 Other than the additions of auxiliary lanes, the freeway maintains just four lanes otherwise across the Harrisburg area.
The I-83 Master Plan prepared by PennDOT in 2003 identified a number of design deficiencies, capacity issues and the need to replace deteriorating pavement. The resulting I-83 Capital Beltway Project addresses these aspects in four sections.
The I-83 Master Plan outlined a full systems interchange at the locally known “York Split”, where Interstate 83 and PA 581 converge at the borough of Lemoyne. An interim project using available funding expanded the congested single lane ramp for the I-83 northbound mainline to two lanes and made ramp modifications to reduce traffic conflicts. Costing $30.2 million, construction commenced in April 2012 and wrapped up in September 2015.
Reconstruction outlined for Interstate 83 north from the Peiffers Lane underpass to the directional T interchange with I-81 will expand the freeway to six overall lanes, with auxiliary lanes between respective interchanges. Additional modifications will be made at the cloverleaf interchange (Exit 50) with U.S. 22 (Jonestown Road), with two of the three remaining ramps removed and the exchange reconfigured into a parclo. A previous change took place in 2010, eliminating the loop ramp from I-83 south to U.S. 22 east.
Work on the first of two contracts for Section 1 started on June 15, 2016. Running through early 2019, Contract 1 elements include replacements of the Elmerton Avenue, U.S. 22 (Jonestown Road) and Union Deposit Road overpasses, and the aforementioned redesign of Exit 50. Bids for Contract 2, the expansion of the I-83 roadways, are expected in 2018.
Work on Section 2 widens Interstate 83 south from the Union Deposit Road interchange (Exit 48) to the Eisenhower Interchange with U.S. 322 and I-283, and west from there to 29th Street. Built in the late 1960s and previously known as the Penn-Harris Interchange, the multi-level exchange joining I-83, I-283 and U.S. 322 includes a number of design deficiencies. Of those, both directions of I-83 reduce to single lane ramps, with the mainline relegated to make turn off to stay on (TOTSO) movements. Additionally I-83 leading west from U.S. 322 includes a left-hand merge with traffic from I-283 north, resulting in a weaving traffic pattern.
The I-83 Master Plan proposed construction of a new seamless mainline for Interstate 83, and an overall redesign of all ramps north to Derry Street and west to 29th Street. A substantial amount of right of way will be needed, including all land between U.S. 322 along Eisenhower Boulevard, and the sweeping curve of I-83 south of Derry Street. Preliminary engineering and environmental studies are underway for the Section 2 project as of 2017.
Section 3 will upgrade I-83 west from near 29th Street to just east of the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg. Preliminary engineering and environmental studies commenced in 2017 for the expansion of this section.