Council leaning toward three-month option on Sawmill bridge project

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsutawney Borough Council discussed the proposed Sawmill Run bridge replacement Monday, with a consensus that closing areas of West Mahoning Street completely for three months was a better option than dealing with 10 temporary traffic signals for nine months.

Public Works Chairman Roger Steele said the bridge replacement will take place during the 2012 construction season.

PennDOT presented two proposals for borough officials to consider: Tearing tear down and rebuilding the bridge in three months if council approves a detour around the construction zone, or keeping half of the road open with traffic signals over a nine-month construction season. With the second option, Steele said there would be 10 traffic signals installed in the construction zone from SS.C.D. to the Comet Market area.

Every time a vehicle would approach one of the intersections from a side street the signal would change, he said. PennDOT said with the traffic signals, it could take a motorist 40 minutes or more to travel through the construction zone during peak driving periods.

Steele said there’s not an easy answer, but if the borough opts for the three-month construction, the detour would be Route 119 and Route 436, with local motorists traveling on McHugh Avenue.

There would be a problem with all the traffic on McHugh as an alternate route, Steele said, adding that motorists who don’t live here would travel along the official detour route.

“Either way, it will be a tremendous safety issue because we’ll have the Lindsey Fire Company stranded on the east side, and stranded firemen on both sides of the bridge construction,” Steele said. Not only that, but ambulances would be only on the east side, with no units in the West End.

Police Chief Tom Fedigan, said he likes the idea of leaving the one lane open, but is against a 40-minute delay when traveling through the construction zone.

“In my opinion, the borough should go with the three-month bridge replacement project,” he said.

Punxsutawney Fire Chief Paul Hense said the Central and Elk Run fire companies are located on the east side of the bridge, with Lindsey located on the west.

Lindsey would have to go through McHugh Avenue or Walston Road to respond to an emergency on the east side, Hense said, and that the other two companies would do the same to respond to an emergency on the West End.

Steele said he thought an ambulance could be staged in the Lindsey Fire Hall during the construction. But Hense said there’s no room at the hall with all the vehicles stored there.

During a previous public meeting about the project, Borough Manager Ben White had asked if PennDOT could help upgrade McHugh Avenue for use as a detour, but he has yet to receive an answer.

Also Monday:

• Steele said the $1.1 million Punxsutawney traffic signal upgrade project is underway, even though there hasn’t been any work on the existing signals.

White said the contractor, Power Contracting Co., has been doing street cutting at the various intersections.

Work includes installation of accessible pedestrian push buttons; pavement marking removal; parking meter removal; removal of light poles; removal and replacement of existing overhead signs; removal of post mounted signs; installation of drainage; replacement of reflective sheeting as needed; replacement sign installation; replacement lightpole installation; new traffic signal installation; paving; line painting; and related miscellaneous construction.

The total project cost is $1,112,458.

Steele said the traffic control boxes will be located on the ground at Gilpin Street (Subway building on the sidewalk); Findley Street (McDonald’s corner on the sidewalk); Jefferson Street (community center sign); and Hampton Avenue (far corner by the creek).

Steele said PennDOT has said it won’t have the streets torn up for Old Home Week and the Groundhog Festival.

The signs will not have a metal fixture around the new black metal poles that are to be installed for the signals and street light, Steele said, adding that he believes there must be a nylon strap that would hold that metal sign up on a metal pole.

Steele said he’s not sure how flags will be attached on all four corners of each intersection in downtown.

• White said a parking area where the former borough building was located behind the Fait Funeral Home was given to the Jefferson County Housing Authority by the borough for a handicapped parking area at the high-rise in return for taking the parking spaces at the high-rise as part of the Torrence Street right-of-way.

The spaces located along Pine Alley and Torrence Street have been closed by Public Works and will be paved by New Enterprise as part of the borough’s paving project.

Also Monday, council:

• Approved the Farmers’ Market Thursdays on the sidewalk between South Findley and South Gilpin streets, with parking for the vendors in that same block, to be coordinated through White.

• Approved adding Dylan Aul to the active rolls for Lindsey Fire Company.

• Approved Raven Jeffrey holding a Christian outreach concert Sept. 2 in Barclay Square.