Representatives from a regional funding agency met with Mount Union officials Thursday morning for presentation of a grant which will help provide sidewalks and curbing along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The upper, eastbound lane boasts temporary sidewalks and no curbs at present. The Southern Alleghenies Regional Greenways Mini-Grants program is providing $39,607.50 toward installation of new walks and curbings, about 50% of the estimated project cost.
The project area spans two blocks, from the intersection of Jefferson Street to the intersection of Franklin Street. One of those blocks is closed to vehicle traffic, the other is posted with a weigh limit requiring fuel, refuse and delivery vehicles to access homes via the alley.
Steven Howsare, executive director of the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission, said Mount Union’s grant is one of five awarded during this round of funding. He praised Huntingdon County leadership for seeking such opportunities through Southern Alleghenies.
“Huntingdon County, out of the six counties in our region, does the best job of being able to take advantage of our programs,” he said.
The Greenways Mini-Grants program is supported by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources through the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund. The mini-grants in turn support projects that fit Southern Alleghenies’ Greenways and Open Space network Plan and its Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.
Sidewalks and curbs are just one piece of the Pennsylvania Avenue puzzle; the overall project’s top priority is replacement of the century-old stone retaining wall which supports the upper side of the street, plus further development of an adjacent linear park. To date, water and sewer lines which used to run a mere 18 inches from the collapsing wall were relocated and some pedestrian-geared improvements were completed at intersections.
State House Rep. Rich Irvin said he and state Sen. Judy Ward are both pulling for the project by lending support whenever and however they can.
“Both of us are working with Mount Union to help bring this wall project to a close,” Irvin said. “It’s not just a safety issue, it’s an economic issue.”
Michelle Ivory, constituent outreach specialist for Ward, said at this point, with several funding sources in hand and Mount Union holding strong in the running for additional funds, all the pieces of the bigger pictures “are starting to come together.”
“We’re all looking forward to the day when we can cut the ribbon on the wall,” Ivory said.
“Our community is really going to appreciate it when it’s done,” Carol Kuklo, Mount Union Brough Council president, said.
Southern Alleghenies’ mini-grant arrives at the same time the borough is hoping to secure a $500,000 multi-modal grant through DCED (Department of Community and Economic Development) for the Pennsylvania Avenue project.
At their August meeting, council members discussed the final steps toward setting up a $400,000 loan through the Pennsylvania Investment Bank, also for the Pennsylvania Avenue project. In addition, the Huntingdon County Planning Commission is recommending the project for $224,495 in Community Development Block Grant funds.
Earlier this year, Mount Union learned PennDOT selected the project to receive a multi-modal grant totaling $1.2 million.
Borough manager Sue Zinobile said the overall project not only aims to improve the immediate Pennsylvania Avenue neighborhood, it also ties in with much of Mount Union’s current recreation and historic activities.
Speaking on the mini-grants, Zinobile said: “It’s a piece that connects all of the walkways.”
The borough recently launched a new in-town walking route — the Bricktown Unity Trail — with help from the WalkWorks program through the state Department of Health and input from community residents. The trail links to the riverwalk at Riverside Park and new boat launch and camping sites on the north side of town.
While on site for Thursday’s presentation, Zinobile pointed guests in the direction of the western expanse of Pennsylvania Avenue, noting a former freight station houses the local senior citizens center and, further down along the rails, the Bricktown Museum, dedicated to Mount Union’s industrial heritage, is in development.
She said the project area, between Jefferson and Franklin is rife with history as well, and includes several historic structures which she wants to see acknowledged with markers.
To date, Southern Alleghenies has offered five rounds of mini-grants. This current round provides a total of $124,500 in funds for five projects in the Southern Alleghenies region. The other four projects are:
Improvements including benches and bike rakes at Stonerstown Recreation Park, Liberty Township, Bedford County ($5,000)
Design work for walking paths at Fort Fetter Community Park, Blair Township, Blair County ($3,000)
Renovations, such as paving, at the Reservoir Park basketball court, Tyrone ($$27,243.45)
Development of a a trail along Somerset Lake, Somerset County ($50,000)
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