City on cusp of more changes to spur development

Traffic congestion is Kryptonite to commercial development in small cities.

People in cities like Williamsport and the residents from surrounding areas count easy and quick access to what they want to do as one of the main reasons for living in a comparatively smaller metropolitan place.

They don’t have much patience for waiting interminably at traffic lights and taking roundabout routes to get to destinations that are a hundred yards away as the crow flies.

If that situation exists, they avoid that area.

Which may explain why the eastern corridor of Williamsport’s commercial district has remained largely dormant in recent decades despite having some attractive parcels on the market.

City officials are hopeful a $645,000 state Department of Transportation grant will do more than its stated purpose, which is to relieve traffic congestion and incorporate pedestrian crossings into the East Third Street/Old City Gateway Revitalization Project area.

A left turn lane from West Third to Mulberry streets may not sound like much, but when it relieves daily traffic congestion, it’s a major consideration for potential developers of a couple of major, vacant parcels in that area.

Easier and safer walking and biking access to the city business district may seem inconsequential, but in an age when more and more people would prefer to do their business by foot or bike rather than enduring a parking hassle, it matters a lot in terms of generating engagement with Center City.

The work at the city intersections in the eastern commercial corridor is going to coincide with installation of water, sewer and stormwater improvements, realignment of Franklin Street at East Fourth Street with Basin Street as part of the boulevard entrance to the Lycoming College Krapf Gateway building, where construction has started.

Most of the work is happening simultaneously over the next 18 months and will represent a dramatic physical transformation.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana is optimistic it will spur economic development.

Is his optimism realistic? No one will know until real private investment in such development happens.

But it’s fair to say the battery of changes, improvements and modernization that is going on in the coming months will certainly improve what the city has to offer to potential developers in the city’s East End commercial district.