By MARK MARONEY
This summer, those who use the Susquehanna River Walk and access it at the Hepburn Street ramp exit will find it easier and safer to park and get on the scenic pathway along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
John Grado, city engineer and city director of community and economic development, points to the railroad tracks running near Hepburn Street exit ramp and Interstate 180, site of a realignment and access road and parking lot construction to assist those accessing the Susquehanna River Walk.
A two-lane access road, 90-space gravel lot and flashing railroad crossing east of the existing entrance will be built. The roadway access begins next month.
On Tuesday, the city public works committee gave a positive recommendation to a contract previously awarded to Mid-State Paving Co. to be paid $65,300 to complete the road realignment project. The cost will be paid for by using the city's portion of natural gas impact fees, said John Grado, city engineer and city director of community and economic development.
The company is building the access road while SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority is hiring a separate contractor to build the railroad crossing.
The way it is now, traffic going east on Interstate 180 must get off at the Hepburn Street exit, and slow down before turning right and onto a narrow road that crosses the railroad tracks at the city's pump station, said John Grado, city engineer and director of community and economic development, during a brief tour of the project area Tuesday.
"Too many people were parking too close to the tracks," Grado said. Mid-State plans to begin working in April, he said.
The existing entrance to the parking area will be blocked off at the city's pump station, and nobody will be able to drive down a gravel path leading to an underpass beneath the Maynard Street Bridge, Grado said.
Flashing lights will be put in at the crossing about 150 feet from where the road crosses the track now, and a fence will be construction between the tracks and the parking lot.
Grado does not anticipate traffic flow off Interstate 180 eastbound at the Hepburn Street exit ramp will be impeded. The crews are far enough off the road to not require a detour. A sign will be up along interstate describing the work crew ahead. The county's responsibility lies in the completion of the gravel trail head parking area, he said.
Council is expected to review project at its meeting Thursday meeting.