By Travis Kellar
PITTSTON TWP. — The first of three roundabouts opened to motorists on Tuesday near the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
PennDOT spokesman Michael Taluto said rain threatened to delay the opening, as crews were still in the process of painting traffic patterns on the roadway.
Despite the rain, Taluto said the new roundabout opened to traffic by 2 p.m. At approximately 1:30 p.m., crews were seen preparing new exit signage along the roadway and preparing the roadway for travel.
He also anticipated that the roundabout’s opening would not cause any major traffic woes.
“I don’t expect any (traffic congestion),” Taluto said.
The roundabout is located near the airport off Interstate 81. The $42 million project is the first of three roundabouts to open in the region. To get into the roundabout, motorists traveling southbound on I-81 southbound will get off on Exit 178 and travel onto William Street where it intersects with Route 315.
Motorists coming to the airport from Dupont or Avoca on Route 315 will stay on the roadway and follow the same route as those coming from William Street. They can get onto I-81 northbound from Route 315 by way of a new ramp.
Chuck Hudnett has seen his share of roundabouts. Hudnett, 52, of Peckville, is a truck driver whose job takes him to upstate New York and other locations on the East Coast.
While stopped at the nearby Petro Travel Center for a break, he said the new configuration should help relieve congestion in the area once motorists get the hang of it.
“Once people know what they’re doing with a roundabout, it goes smoothly,” he said. “It’ll probably help.”
Carl Beardsley, executive director for the airport, also did not foresee any traffic issues as a result of the roundabout’s opening. He said it will take some time for travelers to get used to, but he said the roundabout would “serve customers well” by providing them with new and improved access to the airport.
Taluto encouraged drivers that might be unfamiliar with roundabouts to pay attention to the signs posted for guidance.
“Like anything else, it’s a new pattern,” he said.
According to a news release announcing the roundabout’s opening, the new traffic pattern will accomplish three goals:
• The extension of the on- and off-ramps from Interstate 81 to Exit 178 (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport-Avoca) will make it so cars will not be force to speed up or slow down as quickly when entering or exiting the interstate.
• A new access road between Navy Way and Commerce Road, the release indicated, will help spur economic growth in the area.
• The roundabout will improve traffic congestion by moving large trucks off Route 315 and onto the new access road. Using a road designed for industrial truck traffic will improve traffic congestion and safety for these communities.
Reach Travis Kellar at 570-991-6389.