Sep. 14—An engineer involved in a new impact study for the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway said that while traffic on Routes 11-15 could be cut by nearly half the current volume, much of the redirected travel is pass-through traffic.
Engineers with the consulting firm Michael Baker International estimate just shy of 40,000 vehicles travel the Susquehanna Trail daily. As many as 45% of that traffic is projected to travel the CSVT when it's completed.
Todd Trautz, senior associate and traffic division manager, said much of the redirected travel are long-distance travelers driving through the area. Even with the reduced traffic, Trautz said a volume of up to 20,000 motorists daily still traveling the strip should buoy the economic vitality along the highway.
"It's still going to be a busy commercial strip. It's going to be different but it's not like it's going to be a ghost town," Trautz said during a virtual public meeting Monday. "Undoubtedly, CSVT will move more long-distance travelers off that roadway. How that impacts business, I'm not sure. If we can (add signage) and make sure that people know what's there, that will be one effort."
Monday's meeting was to review the draft version of a joint study conducted by the Williamsport and SEDA-COG Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) in collaboration with PennDOT. The study isn't yet published online.
Titled the Central Susquehanna Valley Transportation (CSVT) Project Land Use & Transportation Impact Special Study, the study looks into potential impacts of the $865 million project on traffic patterns, safety and land use and aims to give recommendations on how to adjust to the inevitable shift. The study is to be approved by the respective MPOs in November with implementation to follow in 2022.
The study area focused on Interstate 180 and Route 15 in Williamsport south to the northern terminus of the Routes 11-15 Selinsgrove bypass and included I-180 and Routes 11, 15 and 147 highway corridors.
Analyzing GPS travel data and other data, engineers found 48% of traffic on Route 15 in Shamokin Dam is local. Another 25% have destinations within the study area. Traffic volume and patterns are consistent with one exception.
"Fridays we really see an uptick in a lot of the congestion levels in this study area," Dan Szekeres, project manager with Michael Baker, said.
The engineers found that traffic on Routes 11-15 would rise by 15% entering Selinsgrove from the South and approaching the CSVT onramp at the as-yet-to-be-developed Southern Section.
From there, volume drops: 45% on Routes 11-15, 95% where the highways split, 35% approaching Lewisburg.
Traffic levels spike on the other side of the Susquehanna River: 175% where CSVT converts into Route 147, 20% on the Route 45 river bridge in Lewisburg, 50% on the Milton bridge, 45% on Route 147 just north of Milton.
The shifting patterns will necessitate changes in traffic operations.
Among the suggestions is more signage for travelers and truckers, signs for businesses, re-timed traffic signals on Route 15 in the Lewisburg area, improved interchanges where Route 54 and the Susquehanna Trail meet.
There's also suggestions for roadway enhancements for bicycle and pedestrian use, and safety, in Shamokin Dam plus potential improvements in Lewisburg's Market Street corridor as suggested by an already completed, and separate, traffic study in the borough.
Suggested infrastructure improvements include sewer extensions in Turbot Township and Kelly Township in Northumberland and Union counties, respectively, sewer regionalization in Delaware and Lewis Townships in Northumberland County, and potential study of centralized water and sewer utilities in Union Township, Union County.
"It's an opportunity for these communities to re-envision what they want these corridors to be," Brian Funkhouser, senior transportation planner, Michael Baker, said.