East Third Street group envisions new 2-way traffic flow

After a period of inactivity, the East Third Street/Old City Gateway Commission was back Wednesday meeting at City Hall to look at ways to redevelop areas east of Market Street.

The commission consists mostly of business owners, developers, and city and Lycoming County officials and is joining forces on a proposed plan to redevelop a portion of the central business district.

However, it is facing a stumbling block as the state Department of Transportation engineers differ on a portion of the street.

The commission’s goal is to convince department engineers to see the value of a continuous route on East Third Street as a two-way corridor between Market and Mulberry streets, according to Mayor Gabriel J. Campana.

That’s critical to a multi-modal plan, one that is for motorists, bicyclists, bus riders and pedestrians, according to Mark Murawski, county transportation planning director.

“We want to do what is good for business and for the people of Williamsport,” said Neil Casale, a commission member willing to review the proposals.

Al Clapps, a business developer on the commission, asked what impact state lawmakers might have on the project progressing as envisioned.

He was told it is important to continue to meet with state engineers and find a middle ground.

John Albarano II, commission chairman, is not in favor of a piecemeal project, and said it makes sense for prospective developers to see two-way traffic along the corridor.

Department Secretary Leslie S. Richards is expected to visit the city for the meeting next week to go over issues, including to hear about the “disconnect” between the district headquarters in Montoursville and the city and county idea to keep a more continuous flow of traffic.

PennDOT does not have a problem with two-way traffic on East Third Street, east of Mulberry Street, nor does it have difficulty with the proposal to make Basin Street two-way between East Third and East Fourth streets, creating the intersection at Franklin Street, Murawski said.

In metropolitan areas, district offices are accepting of a traffic model similar to what the city and county have proposed, officials said.

“I don’t believe we should have traffic approved district by district,” he said.

Campana said the department considered the construction schedule of next year and 2019 to be ambitious and it will give the city an answer in a month about the plan, including the two-way corridor.