Bellefonte confronts parking shortage

CDT photo

A flurry of construction work slated for downtown Bellefonte and the surrounding streets may put residents and businesses in a parking bind in the coming months.

In anticipation of the potential traffic snarl, members of the Bellefonte Borough Council, county commissioners and developers have come together to address the issue and develop some solutions before concerns become real problems.

At least five major projects are slated for the borough in 2015, according to borough Manager Ralph Stewart.

These projects include construction on the Bellefonte Mews affordable-housing project at the site of the former Garman building, Hotel Do De and Cadillac building; adding a walkway across East High Street between the courthouse and the new Temple Court project; a PennDOT project to resurface and re-curb state Route 144, including South Allegheny Street, West Bishop Street and West Linn Street; work to redo the storm drain system on West Lamb Street adjacent to the borough building; and a waterfront project to build a flood wall between the West High and West Lamb street bridges along Spring Creek.

On top of all that construction, Stewart said, Bellefonte will still host its annual special events, including the Big Spring Festival, Bellefonte Cruise and arts and crafts fair.

Navigating around and parking amid the construction will be a struggle for residents and businesses, council President Frank Halderman said.

“Everybody’s going to be inconvenienced,” he said. “But when the projects are done, I think everyone will be proud of what we have out there.”

Wednesday mornings would probably be the hardest days during construction, parking enforcement officer Eric Haupt said. Because of court activity, parking is tied up for half a day. Jury selection days, held once a day every other month, would be an issue as well, he said.

Halderman said road closures shouldn’t be a worry. West Cherry Lane is already partially closed due to the Temple Court construction, and the closure is expected to continue throughout the Bellefonte Mews construction.

There are times when East High Street may be obstructed due to cranes or materials delivery, he said. Parking may be restricted during those times, but at least one lane will remain open for fire activity.

Meeting attendees suggested several different parking alternatives, including reaching out to churches, private property owners and the Undine Fire Company to find out if they would be willing to open their lots to public parking, at least during big events.

The borough will reach out to the coordinators of events like the arts and crafts fair, suggesting the events be held in alternate locations, Stewart said. But that suggestion comes with its own shortcomings.

“The whole idea of a special event is to bring people to downtown to show off the downtown,” he said.

If moving an event would be considered, he said, the borough would have to look at the impact and if there were still some way of getting people downtown.

From here, the borough will reach out to the businesses and property owners, Stewart said. In a month or so, those involved will reconvene and check on their progress.

“If we can work around a Jerry Sandusky trial, I’m sure we can handle this,” Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver said.