PennDOT conducting Schuylkill Expressway expansion study

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Officials say PennDOT is studying the possibility of opening the shoulder of the Schuylkill Expressway to traffic as an additional lane. (WPVI)

Officials say PennDOT is studying the possibility of opening the shoulder of the Schuylkill Expressway to traffic as an additional lane.

The action would be taken to relieve congestion on busy I-76.

The area between Route 202 and Route 1 was found by AAA last year to be among the 50 worst bottlenecks in the country.

Since it opened in November 1958, there have been several ideas tossed around including building a double deck. The idea was shucked when someone calculated the billions of dollars it would cost for such a project.

"One of the ideas that's being examined is called 'hard shoulder running,'" said Gene Blaum of PennDOT.

In other words, opening the shoulders to traffic during peak hours or special events.

"Anyone who travels I-76 understands the enormous traffic volumes on the roadway, and PennDOT is doing this study to look at some operational enhancements that could be done in a relatively short term," said Blaum.

Admittedly, PennDOT says the proposal would require extensive engineering because shoulder widths along the expressway vary.

Then there's the question of what happens if there's an emergency: How will vehicles be able to get out of the way of an ambulance or other emergency vehicles?

"That is being taken into consideration of study. A lot of details still have to be worked out," said Blaum.

Action News spoke with motorists Friday night to get their feedback on the proposal.

"I think i's a great idea. I think it gets congested enough as it is, and with the bottleneck that happens right after King of Prussia prior to Gulph Mills," said Cathy Kendrick of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.

"If it means traffic will flow a little better, I think that's a great idea, you know, it cuts down on congestion and traffic," said Patrick Dorsey of Pottstown.

Others worry that such a proposal would create chaos in the event of a real emergency.

"It would be a nightmare if there was a dangerous accident and somebody were hurt or a fire, you'd never get emergency vehicles through," said Randy Charles of Malvern.

In any event, PennDOT expects to complete its study and reach a decision in the spring.

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