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Scranton Beltway project moving forward

Officials say the project is intended to make it easier for drivers to go between the Turnpike and Interstate 81, but it could mean some residents lose their homes.

SOUTH ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, PA — Work on the Scranton Beltway project is back on, now that money for the project is flowing again.

The $160 million plan aims to cut traffic on Interstate 81 in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties and drive it onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Route 476).

At a news conference near Pittston, State Representative Mike Carroll said the project will utilize the Northeast Extension between Pittston and Clarks Summit, an area he calls wildly underused.

"While (Interstate) 81, as we all know, is wildly overused. In fact, 81 the daily vehicle count far exceeds what it was designed to build. It results in stopped traffic most days of the week around rush hour," said Rep. Carroll, (D) 118th District.

The Turnpike began planning for the project five years ago, and while financial mandates held up the project for a while, it's now back on.

"That obligation had to be expired or removed. And we have all indications that that is the case," said Mark Compton, Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO.

"This is a wonderful celebration to have the Turnpike resume the design and ultimately the construction of the Scranton beltway," said Rep. Carroll.

But the plan means that some residents in the Clarks Summit area could lose their homes through eminent domain. That includes some people in the Woodcrest developments in South Abington Township. They first got notice a few years ago.

"They've kept us in the dark, no updates for all this time. There's a lot of work we'd like to do," said Ann Tompkins.

Ann Tompkins and her husband Walter built their home in South Abington Township nearly 45 years ago.

"If we lose this home, it's just not something we want to do," Ann added.

"We bled for this house, with all our money and everything we went through, all the problems and heartbreaks over the years," said Walter Tompkins. "If they come back to us 10 years ago, 15 years ago, it probably wouldn't be as bad. But right now, we actually will have nowhere to go."

Turnpike CEO Mark Compton says officials will work with any homeowners who may need to move and properly compensate them for their homes. Compton says typically an agreement can be reached before owners ultimately refuse to leave.

"We hope, and we very, very rarely ever get to that point, based on the process that's played out. But there is a process for that that does involve the courts for them, that makes sure they're duly compensated," Compton said.

Officials say they don't know right now which homes, if any, will be affected, but say they will hold a public meeting once they have more information. Residents who may be affected can sign up to receive email updates here.

Officials also say it's likely construction won't begin until 2025.

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