Will truck drivers be area’s next boon?

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette More truck traffic is expected to come to the Williamsport area, Lycoming County Transportation Planner Mark Murawski said at Monday’s meeting of the Williamsport Area Transportation Study coordinating committee.

Truckers are expected to flow more freely and with greater volume into Williamsport and the area once a bridge across the Susquehanna River is open in 2022.

The potential of capturing economic benefits and developing properties before the rush occurs was among the topics of discussion Monday at a meeting of the Williamsport Area Transportation Study coordinating committee.

The opening of the bridge as part of the Central Susquehanna Thruway Project is expected to increase traffic volume for those using Interstate 180 instead of Route 15 and the mountainous section of the Bald Eagle ridge.

That may not be all bad. Big rigs may provide opportunity to serve the vehicles and their drivers, such as developing more gas stations, building on vacant lots, and repurposing existing buildings, such as those at the Lycoming Mall, according to Mark Murawski, county transportation planner.

Murawski said the opportunity exists to repurpose buildings, use vacant lots and develop industrial sites in Union and Lycoming counties on Route 15, as well as build in Northumberland and Lycoming counties.

City Councilwoman Liz Miele said she was hopeful for a balance of proper zoning and development, and added she did not want to see the loss of farmland.

Adding gas stations, truck rest areas, hotels and other businesses at interchanges could benefit the area economically, according to County Commissioner Rick Mirabito.

“That re-routing of trucks might create some degree of injection of economic investment to repurpose buildings and lands at the mall,” said Jerry Walls, former county planning director, on the telephone after the meeting.

“I do think that big trucks are likely to want to avoid Bald Eagle Mountain on Route 15,” Walls said.

The increased traffic may result in the corridor on Route 15 from Allenwood north to Route 54 to experience a significant change in traffic volume and visibility and therefore marketability, Walls said.

“Our goal will be minimize taxpayer expense and look for opportunities,” Murawski said.

The committee is hopeful a $100,000 study on the Thruway’s impact on traffic and land use may be funded. “We’ll know if it is funded by July 1,” Murawski said.