PennDOT’s Laurel Valley Transportation plan draws mixed reviews in Norvelt |

PennDOT’s Laurel Valley Transportation plan draws mixed reviews in Norvelt

Jeff Himler
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
A vehicle moves along the Route 981-Hecla Road intersection in Norvelt on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Proposed improvements to the Norvelt triangular intersection will address congestion and safety.
PennDOT will take public input on the Laurel Valley Transportation plan Thursday at the Pleasant Unity fire hall.

A call to redirect traffic on the Route 981 corridor between Arnold Palmer Regional Airport and Mt. Pleasant along a portion of parallel Route 2023 drew mixed reviews Wednesday.

More than 240 people came to Norvelt’s Roosevelt Hall to view and comment on PennDOT’s latest plan for the Laurel Valley Transportation Improvement Project. Many were glad to learn of proposed upgrades of key intersections at the southern end of the corridor, in Mt. Pleasant Township — including the point in Norvelt where Route 981 converges with Hecla, Mt. Pleasant and Kecksburg roads.

Circular, roundabout intersections are being considered for that intersection and two others farther south — where Route 981 meets Hecla Road and State Street and where 981 crosses Route 819.

John Petulla, project manager for PennDOT engineering consultant McCormick Taylor, said all three intersections, which currently are controlled by stop signs, were recommended for improvement because of their accident history. He said roundabouts, where all vehicles travel in a counter-clockwise direction and yield when entering from an intersecting road, are expected to offer increased safety.

Chuck Naggy, 64, of Calumet said the juncture of roads at Norvelt “has always been a bad intersection because sometimes people don’t take turns. Sometimes people don’t stop. There’s been quite a few accidents there. We were hoping for something, a red light, but it looks like we’re going to get a roundabout. I just hope it’s safer for the people.”

Assistant Norvelt Fire Chief Vince Ungvorsky also is glad the Norvelt intersection is slated for attention. In addition to accidents, he said it’s troubled by congestion weekdays between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. He estimated as many as 25 cars may be backed up at that peak time.

Glenn Pitzer of Scottdale is concerned PennDOT may bypass a curve on Route 981 south of Norvelt, where trucks enter his business, Top Oil Co.

He’s worried that “the road maintenance on the old stretch of Route 981 is going to drop down a couple tiers,” a concern for his truck drivers when roads are snow-covered in winter.

Project officials said plans aren’t far enough along to determine a final corridor alignment, rights-of-way that would be needed or whether PennDOT would continue to maintain bypassed sections, or if they would be turned over to the appropriate local municipality.

Noah Stoltzfus said he still plans to build a house and raise a family on property he bought along a section of Route 2023 that he later learned will be part of the proposed corridor improvement.

He said there would be little he could do to change things if his home must make way for progress. Besides, he noted, “That will be 15 years from now.”

Petulla said PennDOT will focus on refining plans for the segment of the corridor south of Norvelt, which could see construction as early as 2024. He said planners will consult with a national roundabout expert and should have updated information to share in spring 2018.

Heading north from Norvelt, a second segment would follow an old trolley right-of-way before joining Route 2023, which it would follow to Route 130. The northernmost segment would reconnect with Route 981 south of the airport.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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