Bridge project welcome

The biggest problem with PennDOT’s proposed project to eliminate congestion in the area of Altoona’s Seventh Street Bridge is that construction isn’t slated until 2022.

But based on a front-page article in the March 2 Mirror, the improvement will be worth the wait. Traffic flow, once the project is completed, is destined to be much smoother — much less frustrating.

Traveling through the area will require less time because of fewer traffic back-ups. There will be less driver impatience because there will be better signage directing drivers to the proper lane for continuing their trips toward their desired destinations.

Between now and 2022, motorists should strive to avoid impatience, acknowledging that there is an end in sight for the inconveniences that they’re currently experiencing.

Motorists also should keep in mind that many places will be waiting much longer for projects of their own to get underway.

Fifty or 60 years ago, Altoona was one of the places in central Pennsylvania that always seemed to be waiting for money to be freed up by the state and federal governments for projects here — while plenty of roadway money was flowing to other places instead.

“Your turn is coming” was the message emanating from Harrisburg and Washington, and that eventually happened. But now for Altoona and numerous other places there is a new round of need because of heavier traffic volumes and more travel destinations than what existed, for example, in the 1950s and ’60s.

For Seventh Street, UPMC’s growth into a dynamic regional medical center and the exciting growth of Penn State Altoona are two of the big reasons why the bridge area no longer functions as efficiently for vehicle traffic as in the past.

Besides improved signage and coordination of traffic signals, the proposed $1 million project will fix problems with the current lane configuration.

As reported in the March 2 Mirror article, PennDOT will create a new configuration that will allow motorists to use two lanes throughout the double turning movement from Sixth Avenue to Seventh Avenue and across the Seventh Street Bridge, then onto Chestnut Avenue.

That will be made possible by creation of a 75-foot third lane on Sixth Avenue exclusively for left turns and restriping the lanes on the far side of the bridge so both equally will be able to direct traffic onto the two-lane ramp to Chestnut.

The single lane to the left will funnel traffic to the hospital.

According to PennDOT, the key to making the new configuration work will be that motorists in the left lane on the Seventh Street Bridge will not need to move to another lane in order to access the Chestnut Avenue ramp.

If every motorist, when entering the area in question, knew exactly what to do to avoid creating a bottleneck, the proposed project would not be necessary. But as growth continues and more people from outside the area come here, improvements must be ongoing to accommodate that growth.

To its credit, the project in question will make Altoona more inviting not only for people from out of the area, but for locals as well.

Still, too bad the improvement won’t be in place much sooner.