15-hour closure of Interstate 78 in place in Berks County

3-mile stretch of highway needs to be closed for removal of damaged bridge

15-hour closure of Interstate 78 set to start at 11 p.m.

BETHEL TWP., Pa. - Emergency work on a broken bridge over Interstate 78 in Berks County is fueling frustration, and the worst is yet to come.

PennDOT has closed a three-mile stretch of the highway in both directions between Exit 13 (Route 501) and Exit 16 (Midway) in Berks County for 15 hours,; it started at around 11 p.m. Friday.

It was already a painfully slow-go on I-78 Friday afternoon. Traffic slowly crawled along and was backed up for miles.

"It's a lot of waiting, just constantly waiting," said Ramon Santiago, a truck driver who was caught in the backup.

"You're going and then all of a sudden everybody is slowing down and here we are stuck in traffic," said Karen Neville, who got off the highway to avoid the traffic.

Traffic has been reduced to a single lane east and west between Exit 13 and Exit 15 (Grimes) since Wednesday, which has created the congestion.

"I've never been to Pennsylvania once that I wasn't in the orange barrel state cruising through heavy traffic," said Jack Couhig, who was traveling with his wife.

Couhig was driving from New England and planned to stop in Kentucky before their vacation, but they were forced to hit the brakes miles before the backup.

"By the time we got to Exit 19 we were stopped already," said Couhig.

Crews are working to remove the Airport Road Bridge over I-78 in Bethel Township. Its beams were damaged beyond repair after it was hit by a truck hauling equipment on Saturday. The closure will allow crews to haul away the six overhead beams.

During the temporary closure, eastbound traffic will follow the marked green arrow detour; westbound traffic will follow the marked orange arrow detour.

"It's frustrating because you know you have appointments to make and if you can't make them it's delay, delay and delay," said Santiago.

Drivers are being told to pack their patience and use extreme caution in the area. Once the beams are removed all lanes in both directions will be back open on I-78.

Airport Road will remain closed indefinitely between Old Route 22 and Schubert Road.

Work to design a new bridge is estimated to take two to three years, at which time PennDOT will seek bids for construction, officials said.

This isn't the first time the bridge, which was built in 1959 and has a clearance of 14 feet, two inches, has been struck by a truck. Two of the span's eight beams had to be removed as a result of damage done.

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