Sorry, Atherton drivers: Major delays to continue through this week, PennDOT says

If you noticed North Atherton Street has been more of a mess lately, you’re not wrong. And next week, conditions are expected to stay the same.

Two weeks ago, road crews started milling and repaving the entire project length — stretching from Park Avenue to Aaron Drive — on a 24/7 basis, said a release from the Department of Transportation. The first and second phases happened between Aaron Drive and Blue Course Drive, then Blue Course Drive and Hillcrest Avenue. The next phase — starting Monday and lasting through Friday — will take place between Hillcrest Avenue and Curtin Road.

Marla Fannin, PennDOT community relations coordinator, said construction crews are on schedule to finish the three-week milling and paving operation in the amount of time originally allotted.

But, “the delays that folks have been living through for the past two weeks will indeed continue for this third week,” she said.

Workers will mill and pave outside lanes first and inside lanes, including the center turn lane, last, said PennDOT. Flaggers will be stationed near business entrances on North Atherton “to assist with traffic movements,” PennDOT said.

While inside lanes are being completed, left turns are not permitted in the work area, and traffic will be reduced to a single lane in both directions, said PennDOT.

Traffic backs up on North Atherton Street by the Exxon station on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

This week, Hillcrest Avenue, Arbor Way, Ridge Avenue and Park Avenue will be closed for “short durations” to allow work to take place. Throughout the weekday and night, traffic will be reduced to a single lane in both directions.

On Monday, contractors plan to mill the outside lanes in each direction during the day and pave the outside lanes at night. On Tuesday, they plan to mill the side streets by day and pave the outside lanes of the side streets in each direction.

On Wednesday during the day, left turns will be prohibited since contractors plan to mill the center lane and inside lanes of Atherton Street in each direction. At night, crews will pave the center and inside lanes, with left turns prohibited.

On Thursday, work includes milling any remaining side streets by day and paving the inside/center lanes in each direction. On Friday during the day, crews will complete miscellaneous work and on Friday night, they will pave on remaining side streets.

Fannin said PennDOT has received many complaints from area residents who feel like they don’t see progress happening on Atherton Street.

“There was so much utility work underground that had to happen as part of the project,” she said. “And it’s painstaking kind of work.”

When people think of road construction, she said, they typically think of just milling and paving, which is fairly straightforward work. But most of the work on the Atherton Street project has been utility relocation, she said.

“They don’t equate (road work) with the real guts of infrastructure — water, sewer and other kinds of utility lines underground,” she said. “I know that’s been a real headache for our customers. And we’ve really been trying to impart to folks that they can’t see everything going on underneath.”

Atherton Street work is scheduled to continue through November, after which the project will undergo a winter shutdown. In the spring, after graduation and before Arts Fest in July, PennDOT and its contractors will complete the remaining work, Fannin said.

The last stretch of work includes drainage, casing installation for future development, roadway widening, traffic signal upgrades, curbing and installing ADA-compliant curb ramps.

But area drivers may get some relief on another big project.

For the Potters Mills Gap project, PennDOT said no blasting or extended traffic stops are planned for the week, though work will continue off the roadway. Motorists should be aware that eastbound traffic is routed on to the local access road Route 2015 east of Potters Mills for one mile, then uses the crossover to return to existing Route 322.

For westbound traffic, motorists no longer use the crossover and are now routed onto Route 2015 east of the intersection of Routes 322 and 144.

Sarah Paez covers Centre County communities, government and town and gown relations for the Centre Daily Times. She studied English and Spanish at Cornell University and grew up outside of Washington, D.C.