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PENNDOT continues work on Northern Altoona Access project

Residents who receive a letter in the mail from the state Department of Transportation in the coming weeks shouldn’t be alarmed. It does not mean the receivers of these letters will lose their property.
Yesterday, PENNDOT announced that it recently mailed “Intent to Enter” letters to all property owners within the project study area. The purpose of these letters is to inform residents that PENNDOT and members of the consultant team for the Northern Altoona Access Project may be entering area properties to perform environmental research and other studies vital to the project.
This is the next phase of work on the project. During this phase, the Project Team will explore various alternatives to connect northern Altoona with Interstate 99.
The study area for the project extends from the Juniata area, Fourth Avenue, north to Pinecroft and from I-99 west to Bellwood Road (state Route 4015). As part of this phase of the project, extensive engineering and environmental studies will be conducted. In order to conduct these studies, specialists will be in the area collecting field information.
“Recipients of an ‘Intent to Enter’ letter does not mean a property is or will be acquired for the project,” said Earl Neiderhiser, district engineer. “It is far too early in the design process to make those decisions. The studies are being conducted to help determine the best results for this project.”
All team members will be wearing an identification badge stating that they are with the project team. If residents or property owners have any questions, they should be directed to Jim Campbell, P.E., PENNDOT’s project manager at 696-7163.
“Information sharing and community input throughout the project developments is important to the success of this transportation project,” said Neiderhiser. “We are committed to maintaining the level of community involvement initiated on this project.”
The Northern Altoona Access Study was initiated in 1999 by PENNDOT to evaluate ways to improve accessibility to Juniata, Greenwood, and Bellmeade. This seven square-mile study area encompasses a section of Logan Township and the southern portion of Antis Township. A Needs Analysis was completed in June 1999 by PENNDOT and a team of consultants.
The Needs Analysis concluded there are several sections of Altoona that cannot easily reach I-99 because of the rail lines, the Little Juniata River and the low rolling ridges in the valley. Creating a better connection with I-99 and Chestnut Avenue is essential for the transfer of people and goods and initiating further development. An Environmental Overview identifying natural, social and economic constraints was also conducted.
The current Project Team, led by L. Robert Kimball & Associates of Ebensburg will conduct an Environmental Assessment. The EA will be prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. McCormick, Taylor and Associates will be leading the public involvement efforts of this project.
Conducting an Environmental Assessment ensures that transportation projects will be developed in an environmentally-sensitive manner that reflects input from the community, business, and state and federal resource agencies. Throughout the assessment, the project team will collect public input regarding the interests that are important to the community – preserving a healthy environment while meeting community needs.
The project team will build on the Public Involvement Program originally created during the Needs Analysis. A public meeting is currently being organized. Members of the previous Public Advisory Committee will be contacted within the next few weeks and asked to continue their participation on the new Community Advisory Committee. Additionally, new members may be solicited. A public officials meeting will be held prior to each public meeting to provide a project update.
“Dates, times and locations have not yet been established,” said Michele Jacoby, community relations coordinator with PENNDOT District 9. “We’re looking to begin holding them sometime late in the spring.”
The project team will be providing information to the public through the project website, www.northernaltoona.com, newsletters, information outposts in local communities and public meetings.