The classroom hosting the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Thursday was packed.
The issue that drew most of the concerned residents to the Old Gregg School on a warm October evening? Road access.
State Department of Transportation representative Randy Albert addressed the board and those in attendance, explaining a possible solution to safety concerns at Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park along Penns Cave Road (state Route 2012).
The idea would deal with the section of road starting at the Y where Penns Cave Road meets Ridge Road and up to state Route 192, Albert said.
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PennDOT would consider turning part of that section back over to Gregg Township through the Highway Transfer “Turnback” Program, Albert said.
The program “allows the transfer of functionally-local state-owned roads, serving a local traffic purpose, from state government to local government ownership,” according to PennDOT’s website.
Once the road is turned back, PennDOT provides money each year to the municipality to cover the costs of maintaining the road at a rate of $4,000 per mile, according to the website.
PennDOT would propose a cul-de-sac at the sharp turn on the aforementioned section of Penns Cave Road and then the rest of the road to Route 192 would be “vacated” to Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park, Albert said.
Penn’s Cave property wouldn’t receive any money but would have to deed over land for the turnaround, he added.
Albert said Ridge Road could either remain a township road or PennDOT could “adopt” it.
Penn’s Cave CEO and property owner Russ Schleiden said Penn’s Cave didn’t ask for this, rather PennDOT proposed it.
Schleiden said they’ve been seeing a safety issue for a long time and that it’s a serious problem.
The speed limit through the area is 25 mph, which means people go 35, he said. With visitors to the cave — many of them children — crossing the road, there’s potential for accidents.
Many people in the room were vocally opposed to the idea.
Among the concerns? Emergency vehicles would have to go farther out of their way to get to people. Traffic would increase on Ridge Road.
Many said they felt as though the idea would only benefit Penn’s Cave and not township residents.
Schleiden said the road would remain open all the way during the day and be gated only at night, with emergency vehicles having a key to the gate.
Albert said the purpose of sharing the idea at the board’s meeting was to talk to residents, not to make any decisions.
Joel Myers, board chairman, said this presentation was just the first step and that the board plans to hold a public meeting — which it will advertise — within 60 days so more residents can ask questions and share their concerns.