Capital Beltway (Harrisburg)

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Capital Beltway

Capital Beltway highlighted in three colors:
red (I-81), green (I-83), and blue (PA 581)
Route information
Maintained by PennDOT
Length27.6 mi[1] (44.4 km)
PA 581: 7.36 mi (11.84 km)[2]
Major junctions
Beltway around Harrisburg
Major intersections
CountryUnited States
CountiesCumberland, Dauphin
Highway system
PA 580PA 581 PA 582

The Capital Beltway is a beltway surrounding Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in the United States. It is co-designated as Interstate 81 (I-81), I-83, U.S. Route 11 (US 11), US 322, and Pennsylvania Route 581 (PA 581) at various locations along the route. The beltway is primarily located in the suburbs of Harrisburg on both sides of the Susquehanna River; however, part of its southern leg passes along the southern edge of downtown. The southern section of the highway is named the Harrisburg Expressway. Officially designated in 1997, the Beltway is an assemblage of several freeways built over the preceding 45 years.

Route description

PA 581 westbound along the Capital Beltway past US 11 in Hampden Township

Eastbound from the interchange of PA 581 at I-83 2 miles (3.2 km) west of the city of Harrisburg in the borough of Lemoyne (colloquially known as the "York split"),[3] the beltway crosses the Susquehanna River on the John Harris Bridge, connecting Harrisburg to its west shore (a colloquialism of the western bank of the Susquehanna across from Harrisburg) suburbs of the city.

Continuing on I-83, the beltway parallels Paxton Street (formerly US 322), passing the Harrisburg Mall as the road approaches the Eisenhower Interchange. At the junction, the Capital Beltway continues on I-83 as it turns north, while beginning a concurrency with US 322. Continuing for three miles (5 km), I-83 ends at I-81 at an interchange locally known as the "81/83 split".[4][5] US 322 and the Capital Beltway continue on I-81 south.

On I-81, US 322 exits off I-81 at exit 67B, heading in a northerly direction to State College, beginning a concurrency with US 22 west. Exit 67A is for US 22 east, Cameron Street, which is where the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center is located (a half mile south of the beltway). The Capital Beltway crosses the Susquehanna River the second time on the George N. Wade Memorial Bridge. The beltway makes a southerly turn just beyond the bridge, near the western end of the Susquehanna Water Gap of Blue Mountain.

Pennsylvania Route 581

LocationHampden TownshipLemoyne
Length7.36 mi (11.84 km)

Continuing on I-81 until exit 59, the Capital Beltway exits south onto PA 581. US 11 begins a concurrency with PA 581 starting at exit 3; at exit 5A it exits off and starts a concurrency with US 15 in the borough of Camp Hill. The beltway continues east for two miles (3 km) until it completes the loop by reaching I-83 at the York split.


PA 581 eastbound at the US 11/US 15 interchange in Camp Hill

The Capital Beltway was officially designated in 1997, an assemblage of several freeways built over the preceding forty-five years. The earliest parts are its eastern and southern sections. The segment between US 22 in Colonial Park and US 422 on the site of the future Eisenhower Interchange opened in 1954, designated initially as part of Bypass US 230 (PA 230 after 1961).[6]  In 1960-61, I-83, the Baltimore-Harrisburg expressway, was extended east from Lemoyne, over the John Harris Bridge to Paxton St. in south Harrisburg.[7] Also opened was a 4.5 mile freeway west from I-83 in Lemoyne to connect with US 15 in Camp Hill and US 11 in Hampden Township, where those highways were entering what was then the western edge of the metropolitan area.  The new east-west freeway was called the Harrisburg Expressway. (Upon its opening, US 11 was rerouted to follow the Expressway from the Hampden terminus to Camp Hill, and thence up 32nd St to Market St. where it rejoined its old path. In 1992, the whole segment of the Expressway west of the York Split in Lemoyne was designated PA 581.[8])

In 1968-71, I-83 was extended from Paxton Street east and north via the new Eisenhower Interchange.  PA 230 to Colonial Park was redesignated I-83 and extended a mile further north to link with the new, temporary, southern terminus of I-81.  In 1971-75, I-81 was built between Colonial Park and Carlisle, its final section in Pennsylvania to be completed.[7][9] But I-81 on the west shore had no convenient connections with the Harrisburg Expressway which ran parallel five miles to its south. Indeed, for years the edge of the Harrisburg area inset on Pennsylvania highway maps ran no further west than Camp Hill and Enola, showing US 11-15 as the primary north–south route between the two highways on the west shore.

Not until 1995 did work begin on the 3-mile section of PA 581 between the Harrisburg Expressway terminus and I-81 in the Good Hope area of Hampden Township. Engineering for the project was provided by Gannett Fleming and McCormick Taylor of Camp Hill. When it was opened for public use in 1997, the Capital Beltway designation was assigned to all its current components.

On May 9, 2013, a tanker crashed and caught fire at the interchange between I-81 and US 22/US 322 in Harrisburg. The fire damaged the bridges carrying westbound US 22/US 322 and a ramp over I-81. At least one of those bridges, carrying US 22 eastbound over I-81 and several ramps, and possibly another, the ramp carrying traffic from I-81 northbound to US 22/US 322 westbound, will have to be demolished and replaced. The fire resulted in about ten miles of I-81, from the PA 581 interchange to the I-83 interchange, being closed in both directions, with traffic being diverted along the southern portion of the Capital Beltway.[10][11]

Exit list

Mileposts follow individual component highways.

CountyLocationmi[2]kmOld exitNew exitDestinationsNotes

I-83 south to I-76 Toll / Penna Turnpike – York, Baltimore
Inner loop follows I-83 exit 41A; east end of concurrency with PA 581; west end of concurrency with I-83
41.43866.6882241BLemoyneInner loop exit and outer loop entrance
Susquehanna River42.006–
John Harris Bridge
DauphinHarrisburg42.67168.67223432nd Street – CapitolSemi-directional T interchange; serves Harrisburg Transportation Center
To PA 230 / 13th Street
43.45069.9262544B17th StreetInner loop exit and entrance
43.65370.25319th StreetOuter loop exit and entrance
2645Paxton Street/Bass Pro DriveBass Pro Drive not signed on outer loop
Swatara Township45.92773.9122746A

I-283 south to I-76 / Penna Turnpike – Harrisburg International Airport, Lancaster
I-283 exits 3A-B; Eisenhower Interchange
US 322 east / Eisenhower Boulevard – Hershey
Signed as exit 47 on inner loop; south end of concurrency with US 322; outer loop signed as US 322 only
Lower Paxton Township47.94077.1522948Union Deposit Road
49.22079.2123050 US 22 (Jonestown Road)

I-81 north to I-78 – Hazleton, Allentown
No exit number on inner loop; I-81 exit 70; north end of concurrency with I-83; east end of concurrency with I-81
Susquehanna Township68.70110.562469Progress AvenueServes Widener University

US 22 west / US 322 west – Lewistown, State College
West end of concurrency with US 322; left exit on inner loop

US 22 east to PA 230 (Cameron Street)
Serves Harrisburg Area Community College; left exit on outer loop
65.97106.172266Front Street – Downtown HarrisburgServes Harrisburg Transportation Center
Susquehanna RiverGeorge N. Wade Memorial Bridge
CumberlandEast Pennsboro Township64.78104.252165 US 11 / US 15 – Enola, MarysvilleServes Central Penn College; split into exits 65A (south) and 65B (north)
Hampden Township60.8597.932061 PA 944 (Wertzville Road)
I-81 south – Carlisle

PA 581 begins
No exit number on outer loop; outer loop follows I-81 exit 59; west end of concurrency with I-81; north end of concurrency with PA 581; inner loop follows exit 1A
1.001.612Creekview Road
US 11 south (Carlisle Pike)
West end of concurrency with US 11
Camp Hill4.096.584 PA 641 – MechanicsburgInner loop exit and outer loop entrance.
US 11 north / US 15 – Camp Hill, Gettysburg
Partial cloverleaf interchange; east end of concurrency with US 11; split into exits 5A (north) and 5B (south)

I-83 south to I-76 Toll / Penna Turnpike – Lemoyne, York, Baltimore

PA 581 ends
Outer loop follows PA 581 exit 6A; east end of concurrency with PA 581; west end of concurrency with I-83; split into exits 6B (I-83 south) and 6C (Lemoyne)
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also


  1. ^ "National Highway Planning Network GIS data". FHWA. August 2005. Retrieved April 11, 2008.
  2. ^ a b DeLorme Street Atlas USA 2007 software
  3. ^ "The Profile" (PDF). ASHE Harrisburg. Retrieved December 24, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Fatal Crash Closes Interstate 81 for Nine Hours". ABC27. August 22, 2007. Archived from the original on March 29, 2008. Retrieved December 24, 2007.
  5. ^ "Police Charge Truck Driver for Deadly Crash on Interstate 81". ABC27. August 22, 2007. Archived from the original on March 29, 2008. Retrieved December 24, 2007.
  6. ^ Kitsko, Jeffrey J. "PA 230". Pennsylvania Highways. Retrieved 2022-10-03.
  7. ^ a b Kitsko, Jeffrey J. "Pennsylvania Highways, I-83". Pennsylvania Highways. Archived from the original on February 6, 2019. Retrieved 2022-10-02.
  8. ^ Kitsko, Jeffrey J. "Pennsylvania Highways, PA551-PA600". Pennsylvania Highways. Retrieved 2022-10-02.
  9. ^ Kitsko, Jeffrey J. "Pennsylvania Highways, I-81". Pennsylvania Highways. Retrieved 2022-10-02.
  10. ^ "Governor: 'No clear timetable' for I-81 repairs". Lancaster, PA: WGAL-TV. May 9, 2013. Archived from the original on June 10, 2013. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
  11. ^ Heidenreich, Sari. "PennDOT updates road closures following tanker fire". ABC 27 WHTM. Retrieved May 10, 2013.

External links