County proposes study on thruway’s impact on local community

IOANNIS PASHAKIS/ Sun-Gazette Construction continues on a number of piers built for the bridge section of the state Department of Transportation’s Central Susquehanna Valley Transportation Project.

The Williamsport Area Transportation Study Technical Committee hopes to perform a land use and transportation impact study to see how exactly the completion of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway Project will affect land use and transportation in different Lycoming County communities.

Mark Murawski, county transportation supervisor, said the impact study is a way to “be proactive to get ready for the traffic.” The county planning department will take the lead on the study, he added.

“We have four years to get ready,” he said.

The study will focus on the growth areas along the Interstate 180 and Route 15 corridors, including Muncy, Montoursville, Williamsport, Loyalsock Township, South Williamsport and other nearby communities.

It will consider air and rail freight and passenger service needs as well as impacts from fluctuating Marcellus Shale activity. For example, Murawski said, the thruway’s completion could lead to a higher demand for air travel, giving the airport more cause for adding a second airline.

“The bottom line is to do smart growth techniques,” he said.

Other goals include:

• Reviewing existing land use patterns and demographic trends.

• Identifying and mapping available vacant land parcels or redevelopment opportunities.

• Reviewing existing land ordinances to determine the need for amendments.

• Reviewing the county Hazard Mitigation Plan, consider special hazard areas and incorporate recommendations as part of scopes of work for transportation improvement needs to ensure resiliency goals are adequately addressed in the Muncy area.

• Forecasting traffic and analyzing its impacts on transportation systems. Effects of traffic changes along the Route 15 corridor also will be evaluated to address existing congestion issues along the Market Street bridge.

• Reviewing crash statistics within the study area and identifing low-cost counter measures to ensure state Department of Transportation and the study safety goals can be achieved considering predicted changes.

• Developing access management strategies to minimize and control new driveway locations.

• Addressing signage needs, parking, walkability and potential transit services.

The budget to perform the study is estimated at $100,000.

Typically, a study such as this would be funded by 80 percent State Planning Research funds and a 20 percent local match. However, Murawski said, because of a high amount of competition for funds, the county is considering offering a 30 percent match, or $30,000, for a higher chance of receiving the remaining $70,000 from the state.

A draft proposal for the study is expected to be submitted later in February. If approved, the committee will know by early April, Murawski said. From then, the study would take about two years to complete.

The next technical committee meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on April 16 in Executive Plaza. The study’s Coordinating Committee meets next at 1 p.m. Feb. 26.