Ground is broken, ATA project begins

PUNXSUTAWNEY — After nearly seven years in the planning, a groundbreaking ceremony for the Area Transportation Authority’s (ATA) Punxsutawney Transit Center building was held Friday.

“I think that a lot of people — and certainly the board members of ATA — didn’t think this was going to happen,” David Gordon, chairman of the ATA Board of Directors, said.

Punxsy is the first of seven transit centers set for construction, and Gordon said he hopes the others go a little easier than this one did.
The hard part on the Punxsy project is done; the construction is going to be the easy part, he said.

“I saw that there’s a 140-day construction schedule, so there’s something to look forward to,” Gordon said. “Look quick if you want to watch it happen.”

Gordon said discussion regarding the Punxsy Transit Center has been ongoing before he joined the ATA board seven years ago.

It’s not just going to be a transit terminal for ATA buses, Gordon said: ATA’s dream is that the transit center will become a facility used by other bus companies as well, not just ATA.

“I think it’s a classic example of how teamwork brought this about,” he said, citing cooperation from both Jefferson County and the Borough of Punxsutawney, which took care of site preparation.

“If I remember, there used to be buildings located on this site, which we (ATA) didn’t do; that was done by Punxsy Borough Council,” Gordon said. “Without all the partnerships it wouldn’t of happened, and without the support of the people, it wouldn’t become what we all hoped it would become.”

ATA CEO Michael E. Imbrogno said after the ceremony that ATA has seven transit centers planned for the north central Pennsylvania region, in McKean, Potter, Elk, Cameron, Clearfield and Jefferson counties.

Within those counties are sub-regions, or communities that are particularly important within the geographic location where ATA runs buses that are transit intensive, Imbrogno said.

“As we operate those buses, our hope is to operate between those terminals, to not only be effective in providing service in that sub-region, and between them to have connecting services throughout the entire region eventually,” he said.

Regarding the long delay in getting the project underway, Imbrogno said he was eternally optimistic, thanks to 36 years in the transportation business.

State House Speaker Rep. Sam Smith, of Punxsy, said Punxsutawney Borough Council pushed hard for this project because it wanted some redevelopment, especially where with some older buildings were not economically-feasible for restoration.

From the development side, this was an important project to the borough, and the state was able to tie in the improvements to Torrence Street, Smith said.

“I think the challenges for the ATA folks are no different than they were before,” he said. “Hopefully, this facility will allow them to do a better job of efficiently providing public transportation to the people who need to rely on something of that nature, to serve elderly people in particular who need to be driven to the hospital, grocery store or doctor’s office.”

Jerry Bankovich, of KTH Architects of DuBois, which designed the building, said it was intentional for the building to resemble the type of buildings that were formerly at that location.

“The designed intent was to match the original character of the buildings and took the exact pieces and parts from the buildings that were here originally,” he said, adding that KTH worked in part with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Bankovich said the arch from the former Jefferson Theatre entrance was utilized in the plans, as was much of the replicated gingerbread work from the original buildings.

Jefferson County Commission Chairman Paul Corbin thanked the ATA board for its vision and bringing this project to reality.

“What a great asset this building is going to be, not only to Punxsutawney, but Jefferson County as well,” he said.

Punxsy Council President Susan Glessner congratulated the borough and its residents on the construction of another beautiful building.

“More importantly, it will help provide transportation to employment, health care, education and even entertainment,” she said. “Borough council feels it’s important to partner with organizations to build good relationships.”

Glessner also thanked ATA for selecting Punxsy for the transit center; Smith and state Sen. Joe Scarnati; Borough Manager Ben White; and council members.

Council member Roger Steele said how nice it is to see the ATA Transit Center constructed on Findley Street.

“Findley Street was the gateway to Punxsutawney in the 1800s,” he said. “The first visitors to Punxsutawney arrived by train and walked down Findley Street to find their accommodations, shopping and to develop the community were are in today.

“To see the arch, which is now supported by two-by -fours, become the gateway across to our community center is a wonderful sight,” Steele said, noting that the transit center will represent the past, present and future.

Also in attendance were White; council members Mike Porada and Larry Chenoga; commissioners Jim McIntyre and Jeff Pisarcik; Mark Adams, representing Scarnati; and ATA board members Dick Stover, Bruce Burdick, Tony Viglione and Domenick Kurtz.