On Centre: Centre Region | State College traffic light project proceeds in area of The Retreat

August 29, 2013 

As Penn State classes began this week and students settled into their Retreat cottages on Waupelani Drive, officials continue discussing how to spend the $100,000 paid by developers to contribute to traffic improvements in the area.

The first already is in progress. A left-turn green arrow will be added to the South Allen and South Atherton Street traffic light, helping traffic move from Allen onto Atherton.

That project was specified in a transportation agreement between State College and College Township. The Retreat sits mostly in the township, with a strip in the borough, along Waupelani. The traffic signal improvement had to begin within 120 days of the development receiving its occupancy certificates.

The township received the $100,000 transportation payment, which it transferred at the end of July to the borough, since the traffic impacts all will occur in the borough.

It’s unclear how much the Allen-Atherton signal will cost. Borough engineer Amy Kerner said the project is in the design study phase. After that, the improvement will need state Department of Transportation approval, since Atherton is a state route.

Public Works Director Mark Whitfield said the project should be complete by the end of the year.

The transportation money has not yet been assigned to any other projects, but some ideas probably will come up during the borough’s next Capital Improvement Plan process, starting next January.

Whitfield also has a couple ideas in mind.

One is resurfacing Waupelani Drive, in particular between Oneida Street and Atherton, which he said is in “very bad shape.”

The other, often a hot topic during Retreat discussions, is what to do with O’Bryan Lane, between Waupelani and Westerly Parkway. Whitfield has acknowledged the street desperately needs to be resurfaced.

He also said the borough has waited to do anything with the street until the State College Area School District decides which direction it will take in its high school project. The next community forum on that project is set for Sept. 11.

“They expect to do a referendum next year, so it should become fairly clear what direction they want to go,” Whitfield said.

Discussion of how to upgrade the O’Bryan-Westerly intersection has included ideas like a roundabout, traffic signal and pedestrian crossings. There’s also still a possibility that the borough could vacate O’Bryan and extend Plaza Drive to Waupelani. Whitfield said the borough has discussed moving ahead with a traffic study on that issue.

“We certainly don’t want to do this with the school district, and have them put $100 million into a facility, and have the road network not work for them,” he said. “We really don’t even have enough to put a scope together until they decide” how to use the school buildings.

Jessica VanderKolk writes this weekly column featuring news from the Centre Region. Contact her at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.

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