The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 5, 2013

VIDEO: PennDOT tweaks plans for Goucher Street

Kathy Mellott

JOHNSTOWN — Residents and business owners along Goucher Street west of Johnstown have made it known they don’t like parts of a proposed safety project.

PennDOT is listening.

Its District 9 engineers have tweaked the $3.5 million project, hoping the result will bring about the safety improvements while also addressing concerns that have been raised.

“It’s a safety project. It’s going to help the people,” Thomas Prestash, District 9 engineer, said as he outlined the changes at the Westmont Church of the Brethren on Wednesday.

“Part of our process is to hear the community.”

Some of the biggest changes deal with the number of trees that likely will be removed as part of the mile-long project running from Dundee Lane in Westmont to Westgate Drive in Westwood.

The project, funded with 80 percent federal funds and 20 percent state, is scheduled to begin in spring 2014, a year later than originally planned, Prestash said, to allow completion of improvements on Menoher Boulevard.

That project will use Goucher Street as part of a planned detour.

Project engineers took a hard look at a number of items that generated opposition, including the number of trees taken out in an effort to improve sight distance at intersections.

Original plans to remove 58 trees have been changed to reduce the number to 51.

“We are literally going back and looking at every tree,” Prestash said. “During construction, if there is any way we can save a tree, we will.”

No figures are available, but Prestash said a number of new trees will be planted in areas farther back from the highway.

Steps are also being taken to reduce the length of proposed detours taking traffic to a single lane.

A short-term detour will be implemented rather than a longer one on Goucher Street, in response to business concerns.

Also in response, the project eliminates proposed turn restrictions at Emmett Drive and Entrance Drive.

One of the biggest reasons for Prestash and his assistant, Vince Greenland, to meet with the media was an attempt to dispel rumors about the project that are in circulation around the community.

“This is not an extensive widening of Goucher Street with excessive detours, and there will be no center barrier on Goucher,” Prestash said.

Two areas are proposed for widening, both less than 300 feet long, and much of the focus will be on signal light improvements.

A number of sidewalks will be built to connect to existing ones, and as much as possible, sight distance will be improved.

The revised plan, now in final design, also will address a significant stormwater problem, one the state was not formerly aware of, PennDOT officials said.

One goal is to slow traffic along Goucher, something Greenland said can be done by narrowing travel lanes and painting intersections with bright yellow striped road markers.

Both steps are traffic calming techniques, Greenland said.

Finally, Prestash said, he is seeking to quell rumors that the project, on the drawing board since 2008, will be scrapped.

“We are moving forward. There is no indication this project will not occur,” Prestash said.

“There is not that much of an impact. We’re doing some nice things, and it’s going to enhance the community.”

Plan changes

Most significant changes in Goucher Street project:

• Anticipated tree loss down from 58 to 51.

• Proposed turn restrictions on Emmett Drive and Entrance Drive eliminated.

• A short-term, single lane detour planned.

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