Published Date Written by Dan Miller
It can be daunting for a Penn State Harrisburg student traveling on foot or by bicycle to get from campus to downtown Middletown.
First, you have to cross one of the busiest streets in town – West Main Street, also known as Route 230. Once you get to the other side, there’s no direct path leading you to the downtown business district.
Middletown Borough hopes to fix that, with considerable help from a state grant that could pay most of the cost for a project intended to make it easier for Penn State Harrisburg students – and any other non-motorist – to get downtown.
The estimated $2.7 million project would feature separate bicycle and walking paths that would start near the new Amtrak train station that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will build along West Main Street. The paths would head south, running parallel along the train tracks, and eventually tie into an extended Emaus Street, which would funnel the students and others toward the downtown business district.
The project layout, which also shows trees, green space and parking to support the train station, is based on a concept that was developed by Dewberry, the firm from Gaithersburg, Md. that the borough has hired to draw up plans for downtown revitalization.
The Dewberry conceptual plan, a copy of which the borough provided to the Press And Journal, also shows a pedestrian bridge crossing over West Main Street from the new student housing area to connect with the train station and the bicycle and walking paths.
The $2.7 million is just for construction of a proposed park and bicycle and walking paths, according to Chris Courogen, the borough’s director of communications. It does not include the extension of Emaus Street or the pedestrian bridge over West Main Street, both of which are PennDOT projects tied to the new train station, Courogen said.
Penn State Harrisburg plans to add a pedestrian walkway on its side of the proposed linear park, said Yvonne Harhigh, a university spokeswoman.
In a statement provided by Harhigh, Penn State Harrisburg Chancellor Mukund S. Kulkarni said he “is pleased that this project is moving forward. Its benefits will be far-reaching, impacting not only our students and employees, but also the residents and businesses of Middletown.”
The deadline for the borough to apply for a $1.9 million PennDOT grant that would pay for most of the linear park project is Monday, June 30, according to Jonathan Hicks, grants coordinator for the borough’s Industrial and Commercial Development Authority.
To meet that deadline, Middletown Borough Council’s planning committee must write a letter stating the project does not go against the borough’s comprehensive plan, Hicks told the committee.
Planning Committee Solicitor Jonathan Andrews told the committee he has “zero doubt” that the project complies. Andrews advised that the committee draft the letter, pending his review, and two members – and two council members on the committee, President Christopher McNamara and Robert Louer, agreed.
The grant would leave the borough having to come up with $823,321 to complete the linear park. Courogen said the money will not come from the general fund. However the borough has not yet identified “the exact source,” he said.
It is likely that a portion of the borough’s share will be funded through “in-kind” services, such as having some of the work done by Middletown’s public works department, Courogen said.
The borough hopes to complete the linear park in 2015 if the funding is lined up before then, Courogen said.