The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 15, 2007

Township seeks walkway solution

The idea behind the proposed Goucher Wheel and Walkway was simple: Give pedestrians a safe, direct path toward a heavily used shopping center.

But after years of work, the Upper Yoder Township project has gone awry.

And after discussing the matter Thursday night, officials are no closer to actually building a new sidewalk.

Township leaders now seem stuck with a project that no longer is feasible.

And simply dropping the grant-funded proposal would mean paying a hefty penalty.

“The problem is, there is no opt-out in the contract,” township Solicitor Robert Shahade said.

The walkway was designed as a way for Hiram G. Andrews Center clients and others to more easily access stores at Westwood Plaza. But a hazardous dip on Goucher Street nixed the sidewalk’s intended path.

“It can’t go on Goucher Street. That’s an engineering certainty,” Shahade said.

An alternate route that detours off Goucher, through Lutheran Home of Johnstown’s property and up Susquehanna Street has drawn ire from Susquehanna residents.

So supervisors Thursday considered a new proposal: Rather than building a sidewalk on Susquehanna, crews would widen the street and mark off a pedestrian area with a painted line.

That received a lukewarm reception, with some concerned that Susquehanna residents would protest.

“I just don’t think it’s fair to impact those people over there,” Supervisor Robert Amistadi said.

Sending the walkway in the opposite direction, toward Goucher Street’s Giant Eagle grocery, is yet another option.

“If we’ve got to build, I probably would like to see it go to Giant Eagle,” Supervisor Joe Veranese said.

But Shahade said that route poses major topographical problems, not to mention legal issues.

“It just can’t work,” he said. “Where are you going to put this sidewalk?”

Supervisors face an estimated $60,000 penalty if they try to walk away from the project, which was supposed to be funded by a nearly $1 million federal grant.

So the board on Thursday asked Shahade to continue his negotiations with PennDOT.

His task: Try to find a workable solution that does not affect Susquehanna Street residents.

But it is not yet clear whether there is a solution that will satisfy both PennDOT and local residents.

“There’s going to be impact no matter where you go,” Supervisor Roy Shaffer said.

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