Transportation study group mulls 1-way traffic for street

County transportation officials discussed the possibility of turning a section of Third Street in downtown Williamsport to one-way traffic during the Williamsport Area Transportation Study Transit Advisory Committee’s biannual meeting on Thursday.

Mark Murawski, committee chairman and county transportation supervisor, said that the city may know as early as Thanksgiving about changing part of Third Street in downtown Williamsport to two way instead of one way. He said the city hopes to change the area between Market Street and Mulberry Street to two-way traffic.

“When you passed Mulberry, it is two way already,” he said. “But you have just one way from Market to Mulberry, and that’s sort of a barrier to development. That’s what the private developers are telling us. They need that two way to encourage commerce to patronize businesses they might do.”

He said that changing that two-block area will also make it easier for travelers.

“Also, it reduces confusion, especially new people that come to the area,” he said. “There’s a traffic study being done by the city to prove that by converting from a one-way to a two-way street there, that from a traffic perspective, it will work. We won’t end up with accidents, a lot of congestion and confusion.”

The issue is that the street is owned by the state Department of Transportation.

“PennDOT, the city, the county and Lycoming College have committed that we will work together to gather the data that PennDOT needs to make a decision of whether to approve making it a two way in about six weeks, or around Thanksgiving,” he said. “Since they own the street, they have to agree to the change.”

One concern PennDOT has is that the study is aiming to address is the traffic backing up on the Market Street bridge.

“If you go up to the bridge, especially during rush hour … You’re starting to see traffic back up on the ramps,” Murawski said. “They don’t want that to get worse, so we have to show in the traffic study that we’re not making any of that worse. In fact, we might be able to improve it.”

After Lycoming College finishes their new Gateway building, Basin Street will be a new main route for their activity, according to Murawski.

“That’ll reduce the amount of traffic they’re sending through Market Street, which will allow us to have more development and traffic to use Market Street and have it still work,” he said.

Murawski said they are waiting for PennDOT’s decision.

In other business, Kevin Kilpatrick, planning manager for River Valley Transit Service, said that they are hoping to cover the Clinton County and Lock Haven area as soon as possible but are held up due to the state budget impasse.

“We are ready, and we’re gearing up,” he said. “We have extra buses ready to go up to Lock Haven, and they’re in play. We’ve trained drivers. We’re ready to roll.”

Murawski said he was optimistic that the transit cuts coming from the state budget may not happen.

Kilpatrick said as long as they get over the budget hurdle, everything is good to go to move into Clinton County.

“We’re excited for this new service … everything is in play for that,” he said. “They’re (Clinton County) excited, they’re ready to go … Lock Haven sees us as an economic development tool.”

Dan Merk, transportation manager for STEP Transportation Service, said that he believes they are in the final stages of redesigning their website.

“We’re enhancing our website so that there’s more information available to the consumer on the website,” he said.

He said a new feature they’re looking to offer is enabling consumers to request transportation through their website. Although many don’t have access to the internet, he said many people who use their service go through agencies who will have access to digital applications on their website in the future.

“That way, we can get people serviced faster,” he said.

In one month alone, he said their average incoming phone calls are between 3,500-3,600. He hopes to ease some of those phone call issues with easier and more accessible information online.

The SEDA-Council of Governments, or SEDA-COG, has partnered with Lycoming County to do a federally required planned called a Coordinated Human Services Transportation Plan.

“What that does is it outlines basically the kind of services for transit that are provided, not just in Lycoming County, but the eight-county SEDA-COG region,” Murawski said. “It also identifies whether there are some programs or initiatives that ought to be launched.”

The new plan is due to be updated by May of 2019, so the dialogue for the plan update has just started, according to Murawski.

“We have to determine what we can do within house staff versus what we might need a professional consultant to bring to the table,” he said.

The budget for the project with SEDA-COG has not been ironed out yet but will be looked at soon, according to Murawski.

The next biannual meeting will be May 10, 2018 at the Trade and Transit Centre 1 Building, 100 W. Third St.