Ongoing work on North Atherton Street has left many drivers frustrated by traffic and delays.
Rarely does a day go by when State College borough staff or council members don’t hear about it, and on Monday, they expressed their own frustrations.
Since May, Columbia Gas has been relocating and replacing almost 7,000 feet of pipe between Aaron Drive in Ferguson Township and Park Avenue in State College.
The work is being done in preparation for a state Department of Transportation highway restoration project on Atherton Street (Aaron Drive to Blue Course Drive in 2018 and Blue Course to Park Avenue in 2019) that’s set to be bid in late December, Marla Fannin, PennDOT press officer, said in an email.
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Verizon and West Penn Power will also do utility work.
Columbia’s work was originally estimated to be complete in September or October, Columbia Gas communications manager Russell Bedell said, but there have been factors that have delayed the work, such as depth of the pipes, conditions of underground geology and temporary restoration of the road surface.
Columbia is trying to finish the work before winter weather arrives, Bedell said.
All of this infrastructure will have long-term benefits, he said.
Bedell said Columbia follows all state and federal regulations.
PennDOT staff is in the field on a regular basis making every attempt to ensure that traffic control set up is appropriate and offers the highest factor of safety possible, Fannin said.
She said delays along Atherton Street have been magnified due to the amount of road work taking place in the State College area, such as bridge replacements, road rehab, etc.
“PennDOT appreciates the patience and understanding that State College drivers have shown, and we thank them for persevering through these temporary inconveniences in pursuit of more permanent solutions that give them better roads to travel over,” Fannin said.
State College Borough Council and staff discussed the issue for about 30 minutes at the council meeting on Monday night.
Columbia Gas has made a “terrible mess of everything,” council President Thomas Daubert said.
Councilman David Brown suggested that staff prepare a plan for traffic mitigation in anticipation for “the big dig” next year.
He said he’s hearing a lot of people blame the borough for the delays, even though it’s a PennDOT project.
Maybe the borough doesn’t have any specific authority for this project, Councilman Evan Myers said, but council needs to do something.
Otherwise it looks like the wheels of government bureaucracy have ground to a halt, he said.
Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said the borough is routinely communicating with PennDOT about concerns.
The project has many years left, and the borough will continue to work with PennDOT to make sure traffic moves effectively, Fountaine said.