Tracks and trucks

Railroad line being moved for new road to give trucks easier access to FQ

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS The construction site on East Walnut Street where the railroad was adjusted to accommodate the new roadway to First Quality.

LOCK HAVEN — The movement of short-line railroad tracks crossing East Walnut Street to facilitate a new road to First Quality should be completed in the next week.

That’s according to Jeff Stover, executive director of the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority.

The tracks are being moved before construction of a new road designed to alleviate the high volume of tractor-trailer truck traffic snaking through the streets of Lock Haven on their way to First Quality’s sprawling tissue and paper towel manufacturing plants.

The 3,840-foot road the JRA will build addresses traffic congestion issues that have plagued Lock Haven for years.

Instead of using city residential streets, nearly all First Quality truck traffic, up to 200 tractor-trailers per day, will use the new road.

Crews, meanwhile, began moving the tracks in early July, closing a section of East Walnut Street between South Henderson and South Washington streets for the summer.

The railroad tracks had to be moved “eight or nine feet,” Stover said.

First Quality is installing a third paper-making machine at its sprawling manufacturing complex between Woods Avenue and Route 220 in Castanea Township.

The project will create just under 200 new jobs for a company that’s already the largest private employer – and biggest manufacturer – in Clinton County.

The primary access points are on Woods Avenue through the city and Flemington.

The new road means trucks coming off of Route 220 can take the Walnut Street exit, turn right at the bottom of the exit and, within about a block, turn into the new road and get into the plant from the east.

Construction of the new access road, except final paving, is the next phase and should start very soon, he said.

Paving the new road will take place next spring, Stover said.

The $4.7 million project is being paid for, in part, by a $3 million PennDOT Multi Model Transportation grant.

The JRA is also building 5,783 feet of new railroad tracks to increase capacity and to service the new plant, all in anticipation of additional First Quality Tissue railroad traffic.

First Quality, city and and Clinton County also are helping to fund the project.

The city contributed $131,933 of its liquid fuel funds, as well as $1,257 from its general fund, to the project.

The commissioners awarded $44,397 in liquid fuel funds annually for the next three years toward the work.

The new road will ultimately be conveyed to the city and township.

Lock Haven City Engineer Jason Dershem estimates that section of East Walnut will open Monday, Sept. 17.

However, once SEDA-COG’s construction moves to the road, the city has plans to repave that section of East Walnut Street, Dershem said.

That paving should begin in the next few weeks from about Grove Street to the new access road, he added.

If everything runs smoothly, paving should be completed by the end of October, he said.