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Amtran garage plans approved

Authority needs facility to house longer buses

The Altoona Planning Commission recently approved a land development plan for a new auxiliary garage proposed by Amtran.

The bus authority needs the garage to store equipment and vehicles for which it no longer has room in its main garage on Fifth Avenue, because the many new compressed natural gas buses stored there are 5 feet longer than the organization’s old buses.

Amtran plans to build the 4,800-square-foot, approximately $1 million auxiliary garage across the avenue from the main garage — to the left of the Trolleyworks building, for someone facing that building.

The commission granted several waivers of ordinance requirements.

One will allow Amtran to construct a wider-than-normally-permitted driveway apron — wide enough for vehicles to enter each of three side-by-side garage doors from the street.

The requirement for narrower aprons is intended to restrict off-street access, thus easing the burden on motorists watching for hazards. But traffic on Fifth Avenue is light, so it shouldn’t be a problem, said city Community Development Director Lee Slusser.

Another waiver will allow Amtran to merely paint a walking path on the existing former Roaring River Mills parking lot along 35th Street, because constructing an actual sidewalk along the block would increase the size of the tract disturbed by the construction project past 1 acre, triggering stricter stormwater standards and complicating the project.

There also is a steep embankment down from the parking lot to 35th Street, which would mean constructing a sidewalk would require building a retaining wall, said Greg Elliot of EADS, a consultant for Amtran.

There is an existing sidewalk on the other side of 35th Street on that block anyway, officials said.

Another waiver will allow Amtran to dispense with screening on the Fifth Avenue and the Sixth Avenue sides, because there are no nearby houses facing the garage to be concerned about, officials said.

Another waiver will allow Amtran to dispense with islands in the Roaring River Mills parking lot, because that has been in existence for many years and is not a significant part of the project — and because Amtran uses it for driver training.

Yet another waiver will allow Amtran to avoid planting trees in an area where there are underground utilities, concentrating those trees elsewhere.

The project will require Amtran to construct a new sidewalk along Sixth Avenue, which will be more than half a block from the back of the garage.

PennDOT is expected to award a grant to pay for the project.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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