Route 222 on Friday

Traffic is shown on Route 222 just north of Route 30 late Friday morning.

Friday evening, just as it is most evenings, traffic was backed up as drivers coming from U.S. 30 waited to merge onto Route 222 in Manheim Township.

Friday morning, just as it is most weekday mornings, the Route 222 traffic backed up merging onto U.S. 30.

The situation is nothing new to PennDOT.

With additional money coming from the new state transportation law, state Transportation Department officials will soon begin looking for ways to address the problem.

That may include adding a third lane to each side of Route 222 as the limited-access road is rebuilt and making improvements on the connecting ramps between the two roads, PennDOT District Executive Mike Keiser said Thursday.

“I think it would be a good idea in the long run, but it would be a pain in the short run,” commented Matthew Hammaker on Friday morning.

Hammaker, a Verizon sales representative, drives both roads three days each week as he travels to school in Harrisburg.

“For how busy it is, I think a third lane might be a good idea,” he said as he pumped gas into his car at a station near Brownstown, at the northern end of PennDOT’s planned study area.

Years of tight budgets forced PennDOT to look at “system preservation” work that repaired only the worst roads and bridges.

The additional $600 million coming to the state this year with the new transportation funds — and more importantly the $2.6 billion coming after a five-year ramp up — allows PennDOT to start looking a bigger projects, Keiser said at a Harrisburg new conference Thursday afternoon.

Rebuilding the 7-stretch of Route 222, from U.S. 30 to Route 772, is expected to cost $80 million-$90 million, Keiser said. Interchange improvements at U.S. 30 would be a separate project at an additional cost.

Yet, David Royer doesn’t expect a true return to big-dollar PennDOT projects.

He does not anticipate a resurrection of shelved plans for a new Route 23, estimated to cost $60 million-$65 million eight years ago, and the $100 million plan for a new limited access Route 30 in eastern Lancaster County.

Those are “capacity adding” projects that would handle additional traffic.

The Route 222 project is falls in the middle between preservation and additional capacity.

The road is nearly a half-century old and nearing the end of useable life.

“It has reached the point of no return. You can only do overlays for so many years,” Royer said of resurfacing the road.

Despite the price tag, it is actually more cost-effective to rebuild the road than to continue repairing it, he said.

“If we’re spending that money to reconstruct the road, let’s look at the opportunity to add a little capacity and improve safety,” Royer said of adding the third lanes.

And, he said, whatever is done to Route 222 will still be constrained by the single-lane ramps at U.S. 30.

“It’s all about operation of the interchange,” he said.

And, whatever happens, it is still several years away.

Greg Penny, spokesman for PennDOT District 8, which includes Lancaster County, said the preliminary engineering study for the project would not start before summer 2015.

If the project is limited to rebuilding existing Route 222, construction work would likely not begin until 2018 or 2019, Penny said.

If the scope is expanded to include additional lanes tying into U.S. 30, that may add two or three years to the planning, with construction beginning as late as 2022.

Yet, Keiser said Thursday, the project could also be broken into smaller pieces. Doing so may allow initial phases to begin construction in 2018 or 2019.

Traffic volume on Route 222 has increased gradually over the years, Royer noted.

According to PennDOT figures, the roadway just north of U.S. 30 carried about 54,000 vehicles daily in 2012.

That compares to the 43,000 daily vehicles the road carried in 2000.

“We haven’t seen that kind of growth on these pikes,” Royer said of the nearby local arterial roads.

That’s because the pikes are already near capacity. Motorists are on Route 222 to avoid that congestion, he believes.

It is all a result of the “more people, more travel, more cars and trucks, more growth in the area,” he said.



Bernard Harris is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer who covers transportation issues and Lancaster City Hall. He also blogs about bicycling at Road Apples and Potholes. He can be reached at bharris@lnpnews.com or (717) 481-6022. You can also follow@BHarris_LNP on Twitter.