Police prepare traffic, security for governor’s visit to Punxsy

This year’s observation of Groundhog Day will be marked for several reasons: Gov. Tom Corbett’s visit to the Weather Capital of the World; good weather, which could draw more guests today and tomorrow; and the fact that the annual celebration falls closer to the weekend.

And thus, the advice remains the same for those who don’t want to miss out: “Those who want to insure they see Phil’s prognostication, which begins at approximately 7:25 a.m., should be on a bus no later than 5:45 a.m. with the last bus departing for the Knob at 6:30 a.m.,” said Tom Uberti, the Inner Circle’s “Big Windmaker.”

Tpr. Jamie K. LeVier, community service officer for Pennsylvania State Police Troop C, said security will be tighter due to the governor’s visit.

“We will assist the governor’s security team and insure that he will have an enjoyable and safe time while he’s in Punxsy,” LeVier said.

Over the last few years, police have had a minimal amount of problems with people attempting to take alcohol and other prohibited items into Gobbler’s Knob.

“We keep a pretty close watch on things, as the buses are loading to transport people up to the Knob, and troopers have their eye out for any prohibited items that people may attempt to take up there either in a personal vehicle or on the bus,” LeVier said. “We think that the close watch we keep prevents any problems that could’ve occurred up at the Knob itself.”

“I’m sure the crowds will continue to increase in numbers again beginning this year,” added Punxsutawney Borough Police Chief Tom Fedigan, whose department will again receive assistance from area departments such as Indiana, Brockway and Homer City.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies, along with state police, the National Guard and Army Reseve, will also be on duty at Gobbler’s Knob.
REACT and Punxsutawney Fire Department Police will also assist with traffic control throughout the area, he said.

Fedigan said there will be only one bus stop downtown — McDonald’s on East Mahoning Street, with the second stop at Wal-Mart on Snyder Hill Road, Young Township.

“No one is to drive their personal vehicles to Gobbler’s Knob, since parking is limited,” he said. Those who wish to drive their personal vehicles must have a parking permit, approved and acquired prior to the event.

Fedigan said parking permits are typically issued to only the media, members of the Inner Circle and participants in the program.

“If anyone waits until 6:30 a.m. to catch the bus, they’ll be cutting it close if they want to be able to see Phil’s prediction,” Fedigan said, adding that there’ll be law enforcement at every intersection from downtown to Gobbler’s Knob.

Traffic will run one way from Snyder Hill Road, Woodland Avenue Extension, and down Woodland Avenue onto East Mahoning Street, beginning at 3 a.m.

Only bus traffic will be permitted to travel into downtown, he said. All other traffic will be detoured down Hampton Avenue or Union Strteet.

Fedigan said parking will be prohibited on Union Street beginning tonight through Thursday morning.

“Every year, we’ve been forced to tow people’s vehicles through Grondhog Day,” he said. “When the meters are bagged, that indicates parking is no longer permitted.

The reason for bagging the parking meters is that Union Street is used for two-way traffic for several hours throughout the night and into the morning following Punxsy Phil’s prediction.

“It’s important that all motorists abide by that restriction. We have to tow any and all vehicles that are parked on Union in order to allow for the flow of heavy truck traffic,” he said. “We’ll make every effort to find the owners of those vehicles before they are towed; if everyone abides by the restriction it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Uberti, who coordinates the bus routes for the Inner Circle, said the in-town bus will load in the alley between McDonald’s and the former Hunger’s building, and there will be two booths at which to purchase tickets.

Once again, there will be a full-size school bus running a loop to transport people to the downtown loading area from Aldis in the Punxy Plaza up until the last bus leaves for the Knob.

He said there will be two ticket booths at the Wal-Mart pick-up, which will be located by the Chinese restaurant. There will also be two porta-johns at that location, and two porta-johns near County Market at Torrence Street and Hampton Avenue.

Following Phil’s prognostication, buses will transport everyone down Woodland Avenue, which will continue one way until everyone is off the Knob, he said.

Uberti said the first stop on the return trip will be at PNC Bank, and the buses will continue into town and then back up to Wal-Mart.

Phase II of the busing begins at 8 a.m., when the Groundhog Club will run small shuttle buses until 2 p.m. that will drop off people at various venues throughout town, including the Punxy Plaza; the Bennis and Lattimer Houses; and the CMA Church parking lot by special request, Uberti said.

All downtown parking metered spaces will be free throughout the Groundhog Day celebration.

Buses to Gobbler’s Knob will run from 3 a.m. until 6:30 a.m. from the following locations:

• McDonald’s, 102 North Findley St., downtown Punxsutawney (GPS coordinates: 40.943466, -78.971213)
Parking is on the streets and in the public parking lots in downtown for this bus stop.

• Wal-Mart, 21920 Route 119, Punxsutawney (GPS coordinates: 40.929646, -78.982713) Parking available in the Wal-Mart lot.

• Auxiliary parking lot: Punxsy Plaza, 545 West Mahoning St., Punxsutawney (GPS Coordinates: 40.94148, -78.983664)

Visitors parking at this lot will be picked up and transported to the McDonald’s bus stop to purchase their tickets and board the bus to Gobbler’s Knob between 3 and 6:30 a.m.

Getting Back to your Car after Phil’s Prognostication
After the prognostication, the buses from Gobbler’s Knob will transport visitors back downtown. You can choose to get off the bus downtown to eat, visit the events or go to your car, or you can stay on the bus to go back to Wal-Mart. Visitors who parked at Punxsy Plaza/Aldi will be directed to a bus that will take them back to that lot.

If you stay downtown to eat or visit the events, shuttle buses will be available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and run a loop from McDonald’s to Punxsy Plaza/Aldi to Wal-Mart every 15 minutes or so.

The shuttle buses will pick up in front of McDonald’s. If asked, the buses will also stop at other locations on the route, such as the Punxsutawney Historical Society.