State College

PennDOT grants aim to improve bike, pedestrian safety in Centre County

The bike path along Puddintown Road, in College Township, will be expanded up Orchard Road with the help of funds provided by PennDOT.
The bike path along Puddintown Road, in College Township, will be expanded up Orchard Road with the help of funds provided by PennDOT. CDT photo

Bicycle and pedestrian travel could become a little safer in the Centre Region thanks to the state Department of Transportation and some federal funding.

According to a PennDOT news release Monday, Centre County will receive almost $1.8 million out of a $33 million total that will fund 56 projects throughout the state.

“These awards represent yet another way PennDOT is working to broaden the reach of transportation investments in Pennsylvania,” Secretary Barry Schoch said in the release.

The most notable funding in Centre County is for two grants of $946,880 and $777,753 that have been awarded to College and Ferguson townships, respectively.

The main component of the $946,880 College Township grant, according to township engineer Kent Baker, is to provide a shortcut connection from the Puddintown Road bike path to the bike lanes on Orchard Road.

“What it does is it gets cyclists and pedestrians away from a couple of sharp curves where, if they were out on a road, they could potentially encounter a motorist,” Baker said.

The township also plans to extend the bike lanes along Orchard where the new path will connect to the road by widening the road to add the lanes, he said.

Baker said the township will also address the drainage situation along Orchard by directing some of the runoff from Park Avenue and Beaver Stadium parking lots to a new detention area southeast of Mount Nittany Medical Center before the runoff is released into Millbrook Marsh.

“We’ve been experiencing problems with flooding along Orchard Road for a long time,” Baker said.

“It’s gotten worse since Park Avenue was widened.”

Stormwater has been eroding the ditches along Orchard and washing into the properties along the road, he said. Using part of the funds, the township will improve the ditches along the road to divert the water along the new bike path.

College Township received about $100,000 in Department of Conservation and Natural Resources funding toward the planning and engineering of the path, he said. The township will also use $50,000 in township money for utility relocation and construction.

Ferguson Township’s $777,753 grant is primarily for the construction of a new 12-foot-wide sidewalk on both sides of West College Avenue from Corl Street to the township line at South Buckhout Street, township public works Director David Modricker said.

“The sidewalk is part of a streetscaping project,” he said, “and involves the sidewalk, bus stops, amenities, streetlights, trees, benches and trash receptacles.”

Before the project can begin, he said, the township needs to acquire some strips of land. Most of the work will be done in the state’s right of way, but it might require purchasing some private property and some property owned by Penn State.

The area is lacking in pedestrian connectivity, he said.

Sections of the sidewalk are missing. The streetscaping project, dubbed the terraced streetscape district, will consist of a mix of resident and commercial buildings and a walkable area accessible by pedestrians, bicycles and motor vehicles.

The district was adopted to promote a flexible design, Modricker said, saying the streetscape and zoning regulations will “create a vibrant mixed-use retail and town center.”

The $777,753 will cover the construction and inspection of the sidewalk itself.

The township is also adding about $442,000 to cover preliminary engineering, final design, right of way acquisition and utility relocation.

Additional funding provided to the county included $5,300 to the State College borough for bicycle repair stations along shared-use paths and $50,000 to the Centre Area Transportation Authority for lighting and safety improvements to high-volume transit stops in Ferguson Township, the release said.