Rt. 706 project may be in jeopardy

BY STACI WILSON

After years of planning and design work, PennDOT may be forced to pull the plug on the proposed $7.6 million Route 706 project if the agency cannot come to an agreement with Montrose Borough Council.

In January, borough council opted to not sign traffic light, sidewalk and drainage project maintenance agreements with PennDOT needed for the project to move forward.

However, at the Monday, Apr. 18, meeting, council indicated the traffic signal agreement would not be a problem. But council still would like to iron out details of the drainage and sidewalk curbing project agreements.

The delay has already set the proposed project back. PennDOT had wanted to let the project out for bid by the end of March.

Rep. Sandra Major, R-Montrose, told council that PennDOT is looking for a second project that could utilize the dedicated Route 706 funds this year.

Major said that if the borough did not sign the agreements, the “project will be lost and the money will go elsewhere.”

Councilman Craig Reimel said, “Maybe we were remiss in pushing the agreements to the side.”

Granahan said, “The agreements put an undo burden on the taxpayers of the borough.”

He said the agreements were “lopsided” and would have the borough take on legal liability and maintenance of the town’s sidewalks.

Councilman Tom LaMont said he was most concerned about the proposed drainage work along Grow Ave.

Although PennDOT held public informational meetings throughout the earlier stages of the project’s design phase, some in the audience asked why the agency did not come to the borough sooner.

Judy Kelly asked how the project would actually benefit Montrose.

“Parking changes will hurt Montrose merchants,” Kelly said. “Where’s the gain for Montrose borough?”

Council president Todd Chamberlain said parking along Church Street was already an issue and that he wouldn’t be surprised if PennDOT changed the street to parallel parking whether the project went through or not.

Major said she receives complaints in her office regarding the condition of the roads.

And she added that Route 706 is a major east-west corridor in the state and that she would like to see the borough be included in the road improvement project to get better drainage, curbing and pavement.

LaMont said, “I don’t see this benefiting the borough except for smoother pavement.”

But Reimel said that although he had reservations, he was not yet ready to “concede this project is dead.”

Right now, the most pressing agreements are the ones addressing the drainage and traffic signal. Both are part of the first phase of the project.

If those issues are resolved by council’s May meeting, that could buy the town some time in reaching an agreement with PennDOT regarding sidewalk maintenance.