LOCK HAVEN - The Mackeyville Crossroads, which has seen its share of accidents and a large jump in traffic accompanying the natural gas industry and other business growth, could see some activity in the near future, Clinton County Economic Partnership Tourism Director Pete Lopes said Wednesday.
Lopes said the county's number-one road project is among several initiatives local authorities have been successful in moving forward on the state's 12-year transportation infrastructure improvement plan.
Several initiatives are slated to start this year, according to Lopes. He and others at the Partnership's membership meeting Wedensday night suggested one segment of the intersection project could begin this year: Right-of-way acquisition.
The proposed safety initiative has been high on the list of concerns for several years, as it is the only crossroad on the mostly limited-access, four-lane Route 220 in Clinton County and is in a very busy corridor.
Local officials have been steadfast in promoting a safety upgrade at the "Mackeyville Crossroads," also known as the "Fairground Crossroads," where Route 220 is intersected by Fairground and Auction roads in Lamar Township, south of Lock Haven and just north of Interstate 80.
The intersection serves Central Pennsylvania Auto Auction, Trican Well Services, PennDOT's maintenance facility, the Clinton County Fairgrounds, Belles Springs Golf Course, the Lamar Township Business Park, the Clinton County Speedway, the future state police substation, a large Amish farming community and surrounding communities.
The area has seen both residential and commercial growth.
Late last year, county government officials joined with the Partnership in pointing to Baker-Hughes' $40 million investment in a regional headquarters that could employ 250 people at Lamar Township Business Park as an additional reason for their concern.
All the pre-engineering and design work has been done. As it stands, plans call for the raising Route 220 so it goes over the intersection, with on-off ramps in both directions to go under a new overpass to access both Fairground and Auction roads.
The project is expected to cost about $8 million, but PennDOT is short by $3 million to pay for the work. Unfortunately, transportation construction funds are drying up at a critical time and the state says there are many pressing needs and not enough money to pay for them.
Gov. Tom Corbett and the state Legislature appear to have no funding solutions.
Partnership Facilities Committee Chairman Dan Harger said last evening local authorities urged moving ahead with "Phase One" of the plan by working on the raising of Route 220, although he provided few details about what the rest of that segment of the project entailed.
When the business park was conceived and approved, a major investment was made in the infrastructure to supply park tenants with adequate water, sewer and roads. It's anticipated 1,800 people could be employed in that region after a full build out of the park.
Area residents have complained about the speed of vehicles coming off I-80 and the need for local traffic to slow and stop at the crossing. That mix, combined with bad weather - be it rain, fog, snow, sleet or ice - combine to create tricky traffic conditions, and the crossroads have been the scene of several fatal collisions.
In a recent report, PennDOT estimated 7,219 vehicles travel that intersection per day - a little over 300 per hour - with 9 percent of them trucks.
Between 2005-09, there were 13 accidents at or in the vicinity of the crossroads, including three fatalities, according to SEDA-COG statistics. Local transportation officials have developed their own list of critical projects, one that is constantly changed over the years, depending upon availability of money, the level of need and the discovery of new problems looming on the horizon.
The list was presented last year to state officials during the 2013 Pennsylvania State Transportation Program hearing in Altoona.
The local list is developed by the Clinton County Economic Partnership's Transportation Committee, which meets regularly with local and district PennDOT officials, regional SEDA-COG representatives, local governments and citizens.
The other projects to be put out for bid in 2012:
r Bridge decking over Kettle Creek in Leidy Township, Route 144.
r Engineering study for walls from Shintown to Westport along Route 120.
r Dry Run Bridge on Route 477 in Lamar Township.
r Fishing Creek Clintondale, Porter Township.
r Halls Run bridge in Noyes Township, Route 144.
r Young Women's Creek bridge deck in Chapman Township, which was added just this year.
r Long Run Bridge in Lamar Township, on Route 477.
Lopes, who serves on the Partnership's Transportation Committee, said the committee is also looking at what type of resources might be drawn from the newly-created natural gas drilling impact fee established for Marcellus Shale operations in the state. The committee is working to be "proactive" in considering projects that might use some of the fee money coming to Clinton County, by combining it with PennDOT and gas industry efforts to make "key improvements that would benefit all," Lopes said
The reason for the local Partnership's emphasis on transportation is simple: There are few factors more critical to the health and success of the local economy than roads and bridges.
The Route 120 mountain cuts are also high on the list.
Following Hurricane Ivan in 2004, half the road gave way on Route 120, the Bucktail Trail State Scenic Byway, as a result of heavy rains causing a retaining wall to fail.
Along Route 120 there are a number of similar mountain cuts with retaining walls, and each have the potential to fail in a similar manner. Transportation officials proposed to study the retaining walls along Route 120 from Shintown to Westport to determine structural needs. Local officials want that project to expand to include sections of Route 120 between Lock Haven and Renovo and from Westport to the Cameron County line.
Local officials note money is tight in Harrisburg, but they are requesting deck replacement on the Route 120 bridge over Young Women's Creek, if the superstructure looks good. If not, the bridge should go on the state's list of spans that need replacement.
The other bridges are also high on the local list of concerns as a needed preservation, refurbishing or replacement.