Venango Community Leaders Encouraged With Route 8 Decision

| March 30, 2018

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – The reactions were unanimous to PennDOT’s announcement on Wednesday that its Route 8 project will only include four-lane options.

Happiness, relief, and optimism were the main feelings of some of the power players in Venango County on Thursday.

State Senator Scott Hutchinson was very encouraged by the news.

“Obviously, we are very happy that PennDOT views this road as we do – as a critical asset to future economic development in the region,” Hutchinson said. “Whether there will be extensions of the four lanes to Interstate 80 or northward, or there is development for natural gas lines or wireless technology, we needed this road to stay four lanes.”

“We’re tickled, very happy with the news,” state Rep. Lee James said. “When I met with Bill (Petit, former PennDOT District 1 Executive Director) a year ago, he mentioned that there was a possibility of taking the road back to two lanes.”

“I’ve been very supportive of what PennDOT does and needs to do over the years, but that day I told Bill that ‘I’m your enemy on this.’”

James said making Route 8 a two-lane road would be “slamming the doors on economic development in this area, and we’ve had enough hits in this region.”

James then went to the Chambers of Commerce in the county.

“They mobilized their forces and really got the business community to speak out about this,” James said. “I put up a petition on my website for people to sign and we had 1,137 signatures.”

Susan Williams, the Executive Director of the Venango County Chamber, is certainly happy about PennDOT’s decision, but she is also very encouraged after speaking with so many business owners.

“The most exciting thing for us is seeing business owners become so engaged. Our businesses have been feeling good about how things are going and they realized how important it is not to close the doors to our county,” Williams said. “It really showed us what can be done if we work together, and I applaud the businesses for stepping up.”

When District 1 said it was considering reducing the corridor to Interstate 80 to just two lanes, the agency didn’t wait long to hear how county leaders, business owners, and citizens felt about it.

None said it was a good idea and most believed it would severely limit the region’s ability to encourage economic growth and its long-term future.

According to a release issued this afternoon by PennDOT District 1, the decision was made after compiling input before, during and after an initial public meeting in February, and considering the costs of proposed alternatives for the highway.

“With the costs of converting to two lanes versus replacing the existing four lanes fairly equal, it is sensible to focus the remaining stages of the study on improving the existing corridor,” said Tom McClelland, P.E., PennDOT project manager for the study.

“We received a lot of valuable input from the public at the February 8 meeting in regards to how motorists use the corridor and possible enhancements that could be made.”

At that meeting, now-retired Bill Petit, the former District 1 Executive Director said PennDOT officials were very close to keeping the 10.5-mile section of Route 8 a four-lane highway.

“We do get it,” Petit said at the meeting. “We realize Route 8 is vital to the county’s future economic development.”

“We’ve heard from a lot of you, and that’s what we wanted, the public dialect,” Petit said. “Obviously, there has been a lot of concern, but this study was never about reducing Route 8 to two lanes. It’s the most interest in any project I’ve seen in 35 years.”

PennDOT is studying options to best manage and improve Route 8 between the intersection of Georgetown Road in Irwin Township and DeBence Drive in Sandycreek Township, a distance of about 10.5 miles.

The purpose of the study is to identify existing issues related to Route 8, including existing and future traffic operations, safety, corridor deficiencies, roadway and bridge conditions, support of planning initiatives, and support of the regional economy.

The final stage of the study will focus on rebuilding the four-lane section of the highway in a manner that minimizes costs, maintains open lanes of traffic during construction, offers an effective pavement design, and supports the economic initiatives of the region.

A final public meeting on the results of the study will be held in early June of 2018.

Michael Baker International is the consultant assisting PennDOT with the study.

Information presented at the first public meeting, including basic cost estimates for different construction options, is available on the PennDOT District 1 website,

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