Logan Town Centre has brought more business into Logan Township, but it has also brought an unintended side effect - more vehicle crashes.
Since the opening of Logan Town Centre in August 2006, the number of vehicle crashes has increased significantly in the Frankstown Road area between Park and Amelia avenues, Logan Township police chief Ron Heller said.
Fourteen crashes were reported between August 2001 and August 2006 - prior to the opening of Logan Town Centre, Heller said.
View traffic from Amelia Avenue from Frankstown Road
At that time, there was no major intersection with Amelia Avenue, which was known at the time as Fourth Avenue Extension, and Osgood Drive didn't exist.
After the shopping complex opened, there were 78 crashes in the ensuing five years, an increase of 457 percent.
The township wants the state to put the proposed Park Avenue Connector project back on its 12-year transportation improvement program. The project, which would basically eliminate Amelia Avenue as an entrance to Logan Town Centre and turn it into a road for local traffic only, was on the plan in 2009 with initial work to start in fiscal year 2012. It has since been removed because of funding issues.
It may not be on the plan for a while, however, because of the estimated $20 million cost, said Brad Brumbaugh, a PennDOT design manager.
"Unfortunately, the job has got a pretty high price tag," he said. "The fiscal realty is that it's well above what the Altoona MPO [Metropolitan Planning Organization] would receive for a construction project."
Heller, speaking on behalf of the Logan Township supervisors, testified about the need for the connector on Thursday before the State Transportation Commission, which met in Altoona.
Other areas where
traffic crashes are
a concern to Logan Township police:
Pleasant Valley Boulevard
"Our vested interest is in reducing accidents," he said.
Part of the problem with the number of accidents is speed and the short distance from Park Avenue to Amelia Avenue on Frankstown Road, Heller said.
"Westbound going up Frankstown, you have one lane going straight and two turning lanes [into Logan Town Centre], and then two lanes merge into one," he said. "Then you have one [lane] coming down the hill going into two, and you speed down the hill."
The speed limit both ways on Frankstown Road is 35 mph between Pleasant Valley Boulevard and Clair Street near the Heidelberg Country Club. Between Clair Street and the top of Frankstown, it increases to 45 mph in both directions.
The speed limit for trucks more than 21,000 pounds is 20 mph from Sylvan East to the boulevard.
Frankstown Road handles, on average, between 12,000 and 14,000 vehicles a day, Brumbaugh said. He didn't have traffic numbers for the highway pre-Logan Town Centre.
"It's obviously that there's more strain and traffic at that location [Park Avenue]," he said. "I would expect accidents to increase."
The township has done speed checks in the area this summer through an aggressive driving grant, Heller said. Drivers are cited if they are more than 10 mph over the limit.
There's nothing in the design phase for safety projects to help address Logan Township's concerns about the road in the interim, Brumbaugh said. The answer would ultimately be the connector.
A majority of the crashes in that area have been of the non-reportable variety, meaning ones without injury and not requiring a vehicle to be towed, Heller said.
One of the more serious crashes occurred in September 2008 when a southbound pickup truck - driven by David C. Winter, now 19, of Altoona - on Amelia Avenue struck a curb and bounced into the northbound lane, hitting a sport utility vehicle, then hitting a natural gas main, police said.
The SUV driver, Shawn M. Heiss, now 29, of Altoona was partially ejected from his vehicle and ended up trapped beneath it.
Bystanders told police Heiss was turning blue, so they lifted the vehicle off him.
"I thought there would be a fatality," Heller said.
The injuries were first thought to be life-threatening but later, at the Altoona Regional Trauma Center, they were determined not to be, Heller said. Valerie Heiss, now 58, also of Altoona, a passenger in the SUV, also was injured.
Failure to maintain proper speed with traffic, driver inexperience and speeding were listed as causes for the crash, according to the accident report.
The only work proposed in the 12-year PennDOT plan for Frankstown Road is the Frankstown Road Betterment Project just above Amelia Avenue to Scotch Valley Road. It's on the first two four-year cycles of the plan at a cost of more than $5 million.
Frankstown would be resurfaced, intersection work is planned at the top of the mountain and left-turn lanes are planned at the Sylvan East and Stonehedge developments, Brumbaugh said.
The projected cost is about $1.2 million between now and fiscal year 2014, with an additional $3.8 million during the second four years of PennDOT's plan, according to the state transportation program.
The Blair County Chamber of Commerce is backing the Altoona-Blair County Development Corp.'s effort to have the Route 22 and Frankstown Road intersection rebuilt to aid future development of the former Hollidaysburg Car Shops property.
In addition to aiding business, the reconstruction would help with safety, said Eric Wolf, chairman of the Chamber's Transportation Committee.
"There's not a really good connection from the shops to Route 22. Everybody has to go through [Hollidaysburg]," he said. "There are noise, safety and congestion factors."
It would also allow a more direct connection to I-99, Wolf said.
Environmental clearances as part of the preliminary engineering work for the connector project was finished at the same time as the now-finished Park Avenue Improvement Project, PennDOT said.
Again, Brumbaugh comes back to the economics.
"The question is: 'How do you fund the job?'" he said.
Economics have also changed the way groups like the chamber consider worthy projects before proposing them to the state.
"The federal government said it's looking at less money," Wolf said. "We already know the state has lower funding. How are we going to keep our infrastructure investment up? We don't have an answer for that."
Mirror Staff Writer Mark Leberfinger is at 946-7450.