Written by Jim Lewis
The latest drawings of Middletown’s much-anticipated, new Amtrak train station are impressive. You can see them for yourself, along with reporter Dan Miller's update on the project, on page A7 of this edition. What began years ago as a plan to lay a platform along the tracks has grown – as it should. Middletown is a rather busy station – the current “station’’ is more of a stop with a bus shelter – between Harrisburg and Philadelphia.
Almost 66,000 passengers embarked and disembarked at Middletown in 2011, according to Amtrak statistics. And with Penn State Harrisburg growing – and hundreds more students now living off campus along West Main Street – it is likely to get busier.
So the drawings that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the agency leading the charge to build a new station along West Main Street, presented to Middletown Borough Council and the public on Tuesday, Feb. 2 were encouraging. The facilities in the renderings seem substantial enough to deal with the passenger traffic. Providing a pickup and drop-off area for Capital Area Transit buses and a shuttle serving Harrisburg International Airport was a great idea.
The presentation also affirmed that the project is moving forward, after years of anticipation. The new station has always been a project embraced by everyone in borough government. With an extension of Emaus Street that will pass by the new station, Middletown could draw more people to its downtown business district, currently under renovation.
Work on the railroad tracks could begin within the next six months, according to PennDOT. The state is at the mercy of Amtrak, which will do the track work. Amtrak “has limited forces and we are competing to get those’’ along with other new station projects, according to Jennie Granger, PennDOT’s project manager for the station. The track work must be done first before the remainder of the station can be constructed, she said.
It will take 2 to 2 1/2 years to finish the project, Granger said. It depends on the weather.
After years of waiting, you might have doubted that the new station would ever be built. But it looks as though it is, if you’ll pardon the pun, on track. PennDOT’s presentation has assured us we won’t have to wait too much longer for it to arrive. We're still on board.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 February 2016 15:07
Written by Jim Lewis
Was that enough snow for you?
Winter Storm Jonas was the worst snowstorm in Middletown history, dumping 30.2 inches on nearby Harrisburg International Airport on Friday, Jan. 22 and Saturday, Jan. 23, according to the National Weather Service. That broke the record of 25 inches set in 1983 and shut down schools, businesses, streets, highways, airports and train service here, as well as along the rest of the East Coast.
It was a deadly storm, responsible for at least 25 deaths, according to news reports. One image that’s indelibly printed on our mind: A snow plow in West Virginia that overturned while clearing a road.
So we are grateful, now that the snow is melting, for those people who worked to dig us out. Municipal crews worked around-the-clock during the extraordinary storm.
We asked readers on our Facebook page to grade state and municipal workers in their efforts to clear roads, and a great majority had praise for their dedication and hard work. Not everyone was happy with the condition of their street – plowing is a service that the public expects its government to provide, as a previous Middletown Borough Council majority discovered in attempts to hand it off to PennDOT, a move that was pointedly criticized by many residents. But Jonas was a rare storm, indeed – and most of those who responded to our question realized that. “Being that this was the largest accumulated snowfall this area had experienced in decades, all road crews did a phenomenal job,’’ posted Dave Drake, a response that puts the issue in perfect perspective.
Dr. Lori Suski, superintendent of the Middletown Area School District, thanked municipal crews in Middletown and Lower Swatara Twp. for their help in clearing bus stops for students once schools reopened. “They did a phenomenal job,’’ she said.
What is especially pleasing is the number of instances where neighbors helped neighbors shovel out of the snow.
An example: David Kern, an Aspen Street resident, told us he and others helped dig out elderly neighbors. He is 73. He admitted he was “stiff and sore,’’ but was still in good spirits – and digging out a South Union Street property he owns – a week after the snow stopped. “You got to do it,’’ he said “The Lord knows what he’s doing. He brought it to us.’’
The experience has left us hoping we’ve seen the end of snow – at least for the winter, if not for a lifetime. Thanks to those who went beyond the norm to help.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 15:42
Written by Jim Lewis
One of the last acts of the previous majority on Middletown Borough Council was to renew the town’s contract with Nixle Alert to provide emergency alerts and warnings to the public.
Perhaps the warning system’s biggest advocate is one of council’s new members, Dawn Knull, who took office this year. Her advocacy of the system led council to switch from a less effective CodeRED warning system, noted acting Manager Chris Courogen. “I think it’s been a very good tool,’’ Courogen said, and indeed it seems, judging from talk around town and online, that a number of Middletown residents are plugged in and pay heed to its alerts.
Residents can receive police department alerts and other warnings via text message, e-mail or phone call. It allows police to issue public alerts quickly. Signing up is easy – you can visit the borough Web site at www.middletownborough.com to do it.
What’s even better about Nixle is that the price of the service did not go up in 2016. Council approved a one-year contract renewal for $4,500, the same amount it paid for 2015.
It’s an excellent public service that’s worth every penny. If you haven't signed up for it, by all means, do it now.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 January 2016 16:32