PennDOT commits money to Amtran

Funds will cover majority of cost of $1.3 million garage

PennDOT has committed to pay most of the cost of a $1.3-million auxiliary garage that Amtran plans to build next to its Trolleyworks building on Fifth Avenue to store accessory vehicles and equipment, so it can fit all the Compressed Natural Gas buses it has been acquiring into its main garage across the avenue.

The CNG buses are about 5 feet longer than the diesels that were previously standard, so that — with 16 CNGs of 26 total buses on hand so far — the accessory vehicles are being left outside and there’s little room to maneuver inside the main garage.

The funding PennDOT is offering came from the Federal Transit Administration, and needs to be “obligated” by the end of the federal fiscal year, Sept. 30, or PennDOT will lose control of it, according to Amtran General Manager Eric Wolf.

“They had money that needed to be spent,” Wolf told the board at a meeting this week.

PennDOT will provide a share of its own money as a match, and Amtran will also provide a local match, Wolf said.

The proposed garage would hold a dump truck equipped with a plow and a trailer that carries a mini-loader; a service pickup equipped with a plow; two sport utility vehicles, a minivan, a sedan used by managers and for shuttling driv­ers, and pallet racks for equip­ment and supplies, Wolf said.

The longer buses have so far forced workers to park the SUVs, the minivan and the sedan outside.

When seven more CNGs arrive in 2021, workers would need to park three or four buses outside, if the garage isn’t built by then.

Parking buses outside is a problem, especially in winter, Wolf has said.

Because the soil at the proposed construction site near the south end of the Trolley­works building is contaminated with petroleum-based substances from the operations of Amtran predecessor Altoona & Logan Valley Elec­tric Railway, that soil must remain on the property after being excavated, Wolf said.

The site is also prohibited from being used for homes, according to Wolf and consulting landscape architect Brent Carttwright of EADS.

Contracts for construction of the garage need to be awarded at Amtran’s Sep­tem­ber board meeting.

The garage will be heated to about 50 degrees with radiant in-floor elements, so that snow and ice will melt off vehicles and equipment.