Portage looking at road fixes for ’14

PORTAGE – Multiple sidewalk and roadway improvements designed to increase pedestrian safety in the borough are expected to begin in 2014, borough officials said.

Portage Borough Council approved a $30,000 engineering services agreement for construction of the Mountain Avenue sidewalk project during its meeting earlier this month.

The project will install a pedestrian sidewalk near the Portage Area Middle School and extend it down Mountain Avenue.

The project is not expected to be completed before the start of the 2013-14 school year, said Robert Koban, borough manager.

Portage was awarded $233,000 in federal funding for the pedestrian corridor project through the Johnstown Metropolitan Planning Organization in September 2012, said Chris Allison, Cambria County Planning Commission transportation planner.

“It will improve pedestrian access, eventually all the way up to the middle school,” Allison said.

Borough officials signed the engineering services agreement with Stiffler, McGraw & Associates to begin finalizing the project ahead of construction. The agreement is not to exceed $30,000, Koban said.

“In the essence of time, we need to be moving forward,” Koban said of the agreement.

Borough officials are also looking ahead to construction at Route 164 and Dulancey Drive to fix a segment of sidewalk damaged by heavy trucks driving onto the curb, Allison said.

In an effort to prevent future problems, the intersection is being widened to allow trucks to easily clear the corner and new traffic signals will be installed, said Ryan Dodson, PennDOT project manager.

“I think it’s a safety issue, for one,” said PennDOT portfolio manager Jim Pruss.

The intersection is heavily used by coal trucks, Pruss said. Drivers must either drive onto the curb to make the right turn or swing into imposing traffic, he said.

“That’s a concern for us,” Pruss said.

The widened intersection will allow mining trucks to safely navigate the corner. Sidewalks will also be extended under the railroad arch to the corner of Legion Avenue, Pruss said.

Officials estimated the construction costs for the project to be just under $1 million, Allison said.

About $30,000 in funds for the project were contributed by the borough. Amfire Mining Services, LLC, whose trucks routinely navigate the intersection, contributed $100,000 to the project, Allison said.

Amfire officials could not be reached for comment.

“It definitely was a big factor in us being able to get this project going,” Allison said of the funds.

The remainder of the project was paid for under the county planning commission’s 12-year transportation program, Allison said.

Construction at the intersection is expected to begin in fall 2014, Dodson said. PennDOT officials are still looking at the logistics of construction, which could involve temporarily closing one lane of traffic along Route 164 by the railroad arch.

Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.