As of Thursday, most of North Atherton Street in Ferguson Township is down to only one lane either way. And with Penn State student move-in weekend looming, the concern of a traffic snarl through the corridor is legitimate.
But Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has that in mind, as spokespeople met with local media at the Hoss’s Steak and Seahouse in the middle of the construction zone to give an update on the work being done along Atherton Street and elsewhere in the county.
Construction along the Atherton corridor is “pretty much” on schedule, Atherton project inspector Marc Maney said, as the entire project is about 25 percent complete at this point. Work at this point is focused on the section of the street between West Aaron Drive and Blue Course Drive, with lanes closed off at different points in the construction zone.
Work includes base repair, drainage upgrades, sidewalk upgrades — with ADA-compliant curbs — and traffic signal upgrades, Maney said. PennDOT is also working with more than a dozen utility companies to either upgrade or relocate their services.
During move-in next weekend, both lanes are expected to be open heading into State College with one lane leading out through Thursday, he said, so additional traffic is expected. By Friday, all lanes are expected to be open.
This work is expected to wind down by the end of construction season in November, he said, with upgrades planned along Atherton between Blue Course and East Park Avenue slated for next year. Once again, traffic is expected to be reduced to one lane on both sides during that time.
“We always continue to ask the public to be patient coming through the project,” Maney said. “Drive in a safe manner leaving plenty of room between other drivers so we can avoid accidents.”
When it comes to bypassing the construction, Maney said PennDOT has asked drivers to consider other routes, but does not recommend any routes specifically, citing a CDT article from June showing the time difference it takes to drive through construction on Atherton versus heading down Blue Course.
As for the borough itself during move-in, borough communications specialist Douglas Shontz warned that some streets are scheduled to be closed next weekend, but crews will be working to keep traffic moving as smoothly as possible.
One closure this week is slated to begin Sunday evening, he said, as the 100 block of South Allen Street will be closed for reconstruction and resurfacing work tied to sewer line work done over the winter.
“The whole street and all the parking will be closed at that time,” Shontz said. “It’s expected to be open when they’re completed paving or by 3 p.m. Monday.”
Easterly Parkway remains closed from South Garner Street to South Pugh Street, he said, and will be closed for move-in weekend. Local traffic will still have access to the road, however, as the project is on pace to be completed by mid-October.
The borough water authority continues to perform water main work along Pugh Street as well, he said, which is expected to be completed this week. Construction is set to resume on Aug. 18 after move-in and continue through the rest of the summer.
Various street lights are also being replaced in the Beaver Avenue and Hiester Street areas, he said, and could prohibit move-in traffic. Both the Rise and Edge apartment buildings are slated to begin paving in the coming week and are expected to be completed by move-in time.
Shontz briefly addressed the concern that construction in the downtown area is “never-ending,” saying that the borough is aware of the impacts on people who maybe aren’t willing to come downtown due to the projects. He noted that construction will bring an additional 200,000 square feet of new office space and retail space, adding that the additional space will provide a beneficial economic impact.
“I want to reassure everyone that ... we are trying to make sure that (developers) take in all the factors — student move-in, all these special events, anything that’s going on downtown — we try to keep an open dialogue with them to make sure their construction is not mitigating the area or travel into the area,” he said.