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Paving the way on Ann Street: Road could be fixed next year, with costs being picked up by PennDOT

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 7/24/19

After more than three years of effort, a deal has been reached that could lead to Ann Street in Middletown being repaved by late summer or early fall 2020 — at no cost to the borough.

It …

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Paving the way on Ann Street: Road could be fixed next year, with costs being picked up by PennDOT

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After more than three years of effort, a deal has been reached that could lead to Ann Street in Middletown being repaved by late summer or early fall 2020 — at no cost to the borough.

It gets better. The Ann Street bridge — repeatedly beaten up by large trucks turning onto or off of West Main Street — is also to be repaired, with a contract to be awarded for the job as early as this November.

The borough also would not have to pay for repairs to the bridge, under an arrangement that the borough has reached “in principle” with the state to transfer ownership of Ann Street to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, borough manager Ken Klinepeter told council July 16.

Ownership of Ann Street in the borough has been transferred to PennDOT, Klinepeter said in a July 22 email to the Press & Journal.

In return for PennDOT acquiring the portion of Ann Street that is in Middletown — from West Main east on Ann to where Ann intersects with South Union — this proposed “road swap” calls for the borough to acquire Union Street, from Main Street south to Ann Street.

Union Street from Main south to Ann averages 6,678 vehicles per day, according to a PennDOT traffic count from 2015.

The two stretches of road being swapped are roughly equivalent in length, so the borough anticipates little to no impact on the amount of money Middletown gets from the state for road maintenance, Klinepeter said.

The borough will continue plowing Ann Street, under an existing winter maintenance agreement with PennDOT where borough crews plow state-owned roads in Middletown.

Borough officials have been hearing pleas from residents — including Councilor Robert Reid, who lives just off Ann Street — to repave Ann Street since early 2016, after much of the road was dug up for Suez to install new water lines.

Tractor-trailers use Ann Street because the vehicles are too high to get through the Union Street underpass.

Ann Street averages 6,573 vehicles a day, of which 592 are tractor-trailer trucks, according to an email from PennDOT District 8 spokesman Mike Crochunis.

By comparison, Main Street between Ann and Vine streets in Middletown averages 13,317 vehicles per day, according to a count from July 12, 2018.

Outside of the borough, Ann Street is Route 441, which is state-owned.

Borough staff and Councilor Ian Reddinger approached PennDOT in 2016 to partner with the state on repaving Ann Street.

It could have cost the borough $890,000, according to a 2017 estimate from the borough’s consulting engineers, HRG.

Many more meetings were held over the past two years between PennDOT managers and engineers and with Klinepeter and Middletown Public Works Director Greg Wilsbach, leading to the road swap “which we both feel makes the most sense for both agencies,” Klinepeter said.

PennDOT confirmed the account in an email to the Press & Journal from Crochunis, who said: “Our Dauphin County maintenance crew will mill and pave Ann Street next year.”

The swap does not require approval of the state Legislature because the length of road involved in the exchange falls short of a specified threshold, Klinepeter said.

Once the swap is finalized, Klinepeter said he anticipates PennDOT awarding a contract for repairs to the Ann Street bridge in November, with the work scheduled for completion in summer 2020 depending upon weather.

The project calls for adding approach slabs to each end of the bridge, replacing the damaged parapet, guiderail and fence, and replacing the settled sidewalk adjacent to the bridge.

Radar detection would be added to the traffic signal at Ann and West Main. Pedestrian safety improvements are to be added, plus handicapped-accessible curb ramps and updated signs.

For roughly the first 30 days of the bridge project, traffic will be detoured via Airport Drive and the Airport Connector. There will be single-lane closures for the rest of the project.

As the road swap transfers ownership responsibilities for the bridge to PennDOT, future generations of Middletown residents will no longer be burdened with “the financial responsibility for future repairs and replacement” of the bridge, Klinepeter told the Press & Journal in an email.

After the bridge is repaired, PennDOT will move onto milling and resurfacing all of Ann Street in the borough from West Main to Union. The borough will work with PennDOT in communicating information about parking restrictions that will be in place during the repaving.

The project will not widen Ann Street — which may disappoint residents whose vehicles parked on the street have been hit by tractor-trailers — a frequent occurrence, according to Middletown police reports over the past several years.

But with residences on both sides of Ann Street already so close to the sidewalk, it is hard to see from where the property would come in order to widen the street.

PennDOT will install new handicapped-accessible curb ramps to the sidewalk at major intersections on Ann Street as part of the project.

But otherwise, “this not a rebuild of Ann Street,” Klinepeter said in his email, nor is it a streetscape project, such as the multi-million dollar grant-funded project with sidewalks, pavers, and decorative street lights that was done on Union Street.

However, for the many residents who must use Ann Street every day to get to work, school, or wherever else — it should mean a much less bumpy ride. And it doesn’t appear their taxes will have to go up to pay for it.

An added bonus of the borough acquiring ownership of Union Street is that the borough will no longer have to go through PennDOT for requests to close the road for activities such as the Kuppy’s Diner Cruise-In, or for the events Tattered Flag has been having such as the Little Little Beer Festival, Klinepeter said.