The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 18, 2007

Route woes may doom walkway

Upper Yoder shies away from controversial plan


JOHNSTOWN — After decades of discussion and years of design work, Goucher Wheel and Walkway may never become reality.

Upper Yoder Township supervisors are considering dropping the $1 million project, citing a changing route and residents’ concerns.

At best, officials said, the walkway may proceed in a scaled-back form. But support has vanished for construction of the controversial sidewalk along Susquehanna Street.

“The supervisors aren’t happy with that concept, and neither are the residents,” township Solicitor Robert Shahade said.

Officials long have considered creating a walkway to give the impaired clients of the Hiram G. Andrews Center a safer route to West Hills shopping areas.

In 2002, U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, delivered nearly $1 million for the project.

But it later became clear that a hazardous dip prevented the sidewalk from following Goucher Street into Westmont Borough.

Planners then proposed detouring the walk onto Susquehanna Street, which drew protests from residents.

Upper Yoder officials now say they cannot support that plan.

“The more you looked at it, it wasn’t going to be as simple as we thought,” supervisors’ Chairman Roy Shaffer said.

One issue remains, though.

Shahade said he is trying to determine whether the township may have to fork over an estimated $60,000 penalty for walking away from the grant-funded project.

Upper Yoder cannot afford that expense.

“If there is a penalty, we’re going to revisit the design and absolutely minimize the impact (on residents),” Shahade said.