STATE COLLEGE — Two projects to improve aesthetics and safety in and around downtown have hefty price tags and received mixed feedback during recent presentations to Borough Council.
The first is a design plan to address mid-block crossings and pedestrian safety and to upgrade the look of the 100 blocks of Atherton Street between the bus station and Highland Alley.
The council first saw a concept plan last winter for pedestrian fencing in that area to channel people to designated crosswalks, and the project was expanded to include various other improvements.
At its meeting today, the council will vote to authorize development of a final design and construction documents for the Atherton project.
The second is a plan, in its earlier stages, to upgrade the 100 block of South Pugh Street. After the borough had to remove diseased elm trees, staff took the opportunity to consider improvements there, including turn lanes into the parking garage and onto Beaver Avenue.
In addition to the fence, the Atherton plans include wider sidewalks with brick sections between the sidewalks and street, additional lighting, plantings, benches and improved crosswalks.
Landscape architect Dan Jones and design firm Stahl Sheaffer Engineering found the crosswalks at Atherton and College Avenue in particular need of an upgrade, which might include neon stripes and in-pavement lighting.
“There are ways now that you actually have LED lights in the pavement,” Jones said. “(The state Department of Transportation) actually likes this. It makes it more dynamic.”
The project’s anticipated cost tops $1.4 million, including all construction, right-of-way acquisition, possible utility relocations and PennDot inspections, because Atherton also is state Route 26.
With an anticipated budget of just $875,000, which includes federal grants, Brian Hoffheins, of Stahl Sheaffer, explained a priority list, compiled with the borough’s Public Works Department.
That includes $683,000 worth of work in the 100 block of South Atherton, only lighting and removal of sidewalk hazards in the 100 North block, and the right-of- way, utility and PennDot costs. The total still exceeds the budget, at $940,750.
Councilman Tom Daubert asked for an itemized cost list before today, wanting to know the breakdown of the $683,000 price tag.
Hoffheins explained the bulk of that, with the traffic signals at College and Beaver costing $131,000 and $107,000, brick pavers costing $50,000, the pedestrian fence $50,000 and the sidewalk $63,000.
Other council members praised the plan or items in it, though Peter Morris said he thought some people might jump the fence.
“I like what I see,” said Ron Filippelli. “This has always been an important project to me. I encourage you to move forward.”
Penn State graduate student Kirk Dimond worked with the borough to complete the Pugh Street plan.
It includes a covered bike rack at the College Avenue corner, near Spats Cafe, trees along the entire street, and brick sidewalk paving similar to that on Fraser Street and in front of the borough building. Benches and new street lights will be added along the entire street. Across from the parking garage, on the east side of the street, is the concept plan for a plaza area, with potential seating and bike racks. The plaza will help allow for left turn lanes for cars turning into the parking garage and onto Beaver Avenue, with room for about two cars in each turn lane. The change will eliminate five street parking spaces.
“I’m going to be very interested in seeing the success of the plaza, given it’s right in front of a very tall building,” said Council President Don Hahn. “I commend you on the idea, although I’m not convinced about the success of the idea.”
Jim Rosenberger asked about the timing of the project related to the expected removal of the Pugh Street parking garage in the next five years, due to its age. Environmental Coordinator and project manager Alan Sam said he can’t yet answer that, but project phasing may address the issue.
The Pugh Street project is scheduled for 2014 and budgeted at $825,000, which includes federal Community Development Block Grant funding.
Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter