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PennDOT targets New Stanton for $50M project

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By Kate Wilcox
Friday, June 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

For travelers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, New Stanton is a passing destination for food and fuel. But without a central downtown or sidewalks in the borough, it can be a traffic nightmare.

PennDOT is stepping in to fix the borough's gridlock with a $50 million Interstate 70 improvement project.

As a major highway hub, where Route 119, I-70 and the turnpike intersect, New Stanton has the fourth most vehicular traffic in Westmoreland County with 567,957 vehicle miles traveled daily in the borough.

About 30 of the borough's 2,173 residents gathered this week in the fire hall to discuss the future they want to see for New Stanton with the aid of Smart Growth Partnership, a nonprofit affiliated with Penn State Extension, and the Westmoreland County Planning Department.

The project will remove the current ramps to I-70 and relocate them down the highway near the UPS facility.

Planners hope the change will alleviate traffic jams by splitting traffic into roundabouts, said council President Scott Sistek.

“Don't even try and get through here at noon or 4 p.m.,” he said. “You can't move.”

Residents' suggestions on improving New Stanton that were collected at the meeting will be compiled and sent to council and the county planning department.

Councilwoman Linda Echard said council will look over residents' thoughts while reviewing the borough's planning and zoning ordinances.

“We need to see how this collection (of suggestions) fits into the big picture,” she said.

Construction on the interchange will start in 2015 and go until 2018.

Several residents at the meeting believed the change would not benefit the borough.

Stella Morgan has lived in the borough for 40 years and owns TJ's Restaurant and Sports Lounge on East Pennsylvania and Center avenues, where the entrance and exit ramps are now located. When the ramps are moved, travelers will no longer be routed past her business.

Morgan said she is concerned that drivers won't make their way to her business. And, she said, the traffic is not as bad as everyone says.

Other residents, however, see the traffic as a problem that needs to be addressed.

Bonnie Omlor, a retiree and borough resident for 44 years, lives on Center Avenue where the current ramps dump vehicles entering New Stanton. She said the traffic makes it too dangerous to walk in the borough.

“New Stanton needs changes,” she said. “It's terrible. You can't even walk across the bridge.”

Many residents at the meeting had similar ideas for improving the borough, most pointing to the need for a grocery store and a centralized downtown area.

The interchange relocation could positively impact property owners who want to sell land near the new ramps.

Marge and Jim Fox, both retired, own a non-working farm near the UPS depot.

“We're looking to sell it because of our age,” Marge Fox said.

The presentation by county planners at the meeting gave the couple hope.

The planners expect plenty of development near the new interchange, including commercial, industrial and residential buildings, which is why they want borough officials to start their planning process now.

“If you wait too long to plan for development, you wind up with inconsistent development,” said Christopher Bova, deputy director of county planning and development.

Kate Wilcox is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or kwilcox@tribweb.com.

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