Walkable Communities effort to begin next phase
MUNCY – A review of concepts and a plan to move forward on the next phase of the walkable communities project was brought up for discussion recently during a group committee meeting held at the Muncy Library.
County officials, engineers, Main Street volunteers, teachers, park planners and borough residents joined SEDA-COG’s representative, Brian Auman, Landscape Architect and Principal PLanner to discuss funding options and prioritize projects.
Starting last May, the project began with concerned citizens meeting to discuss ways to keep communities safe and accessible to bicycle and pedestrian traffic. With many challenges to face, the group walked through some of the public corridors that needed to be addressed in the Muncy and Hughesville areas. Ways to create greenways and connections by using functional and recreational trails between these communities were presented by Auman last week for review and discussion.
He pointed out how the river bridge can provide visual cues for transition zones as a community gateway. More trees, streetscapes and cross paths can show the driver to “slow down” for schools, parks, and public buildings. “More brick pathways and posts can be added for crosswalks to make it even more noticeable,” he said. For example, at the Muncy Hospital zone eliminate the visual clutter. Reduce bump-outs, add some trees and brick crosswalks to suggest slower traffic,” Auman said as he showed a detailed map to the committee.
A priority for the project seemed to be Murray Farm Lane and Boak Ave. in Hughesville on the east side of Rt. 405. “The streets do not align and a more formal intersection with brick cross paths and more sign-age is needed to direct pedestrians, especially students. A direct bicycle route to the school with a continuous sidewalk pattern will be extremely helpful according to Auman as he reviewed the plans with the members. There is a need to integrate traffic and designated parking between the school complex and the recreational areas. Greenways can be added to slow high speed traffic. “This creates connections in the neighborhoods and improves safety,” he added.
Another area discussed was the Muncy Creek and Race Street corridor for a greenway project.
Implementation and funding is a priority to get started and “we need to select priorities,” recommended Linda Stein.
“There will definitely be an increase in trucks through here. We are expecting up to 25 more trucks per day with Moran Industries coming from Watsontown through here on Rt. 405 to the Old Mill Corridor,” noted Mark Murawski, transportation planner from the Lycoming County Planning office. “We want to be a biking and walking community but there is a magnitude of trucks from the energy companies,” said a group member.
There was a consensus for proper signs and traffic signals to be an early implementation at the busy intersections on the Rt. 405 interchange through Hughesville and Muncy to Montgomery.
However, funding is a challenge. ‘The light on the corner of Rt. 405 and 220 is a 6 million dollar project,” said Murawski. PennDot will not be able to support those funds.
It was noted that the Route 118 and 405 intersection in Hughesville is also a problem area. It is difficult for the trucks to make a left turn. “Hughesville is a direct hit for these trucks to get to these well sites,” said Gene Winters with the Lime Bluff Recreation Commission. This led to great discussion on weight restrictions for the trucks. The law (State Vehicle Motor Code) now states that legal loads do not need special permits to run these state roads. Most of the water and drilling trucks are of legal sizes according to Murawski. “The legislature would have to amend the vehicle code,” he said. However, local ordinances can be established for the noise. “You have the ability to control that part of it,” Murawski added.
Who has the money to fix the problem the group inquired. Severance taxes from the gas industry does not look favorable with the new administration, and can the trucks fix this they wanted to know. “Even with the improvements, how can we keep these intersections from breaking down again 3 or ten years from now?” they asked.
Although funding looks like a current dismal situation right now, Murawski suggested to go ahead and designate some existing funds that may possibly be left over from WATTS (county transportation funds) that were allocated for community and transportation enhancements like the River Walk and Little League. “Once the existing projects in the works are finished, then costs will be known and the financial need to cover it after these projects are completed. There may be little money left for new projects, but some funds to jump start a project,” Murawski said. With the Federal Transportation Bill still in Congress, no funds are being replenished.
“In the long run we will need local consensus to deal with these projects. The municipalities, we all need to work together and cooperate to get the money to work on these projects.” A future meeting is projected for early spring at the County Planning Office.