UPDATED -- Because a tanker fire has closed I-81 in the Harrisburg, Pa., area, for what is expected to be several days, the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Harrisburg East (#247) and Carlisle (#226), is being used as an alternate route. Tolls are being waived for all vehicles that enter and exit at those two interchanges only.
The turnpike authority says tolls are not being waived for any other movements along the route, meaning vehicles entering at either Harrisburg West (#242) or Gettysburg Pike (#236) do not get free turnpike travel if exiting at Harrisburg East or Carlisle.
One turnpike official says the toll waiver is restricted to Harrisburg East and Carlisle interchanges to avoid exacerbating congestion on Interstate 83 and State Route 15. The waiver of tolls will be in place until I-81 reopens, with the turnpike authority saying that is likely on May 13.
All this is the result of fiery tanker crash that happened shortly after 6 a.m. on Thursday near the Harrisburg, resulting in a section of I-81 being closed for several days along with other nearby roads.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says the ramp from northbound I-81 to westbound Route 22/322 closed the bridges that carry Route 22 over I-81 and both directions of I-81 that pass underneath those bridges. Route 22/322 and I-81 in the vicinity of exit 67 will remain closed until further notice.
A news release from the state says the bridge has been seriously damaged due to intense heat from the fire, buckling the steel beams and is no longer safe. The spans over both northbound and southbound I-81 will be demolished and removed. Prep work started last evening and demolition should start today. This work is expected to take a few days to complete before it is safe to allow traffic underneath on I-81.
The ramp from northbound I-81 to westbound Route 22/322 is where the tanker truck overturned and caught fire. The deck was destroyed and needs to be replaced. Plans are to remove the deck of the bridge span over I-81 over the next few days. It may also be necessary to remove the entire superstructure of the bridge (this includes the beams). Traffic will not be allowed on I-81 under this bridge until this is accomplished.