PennDOT holds public review meeting on Potters Mills Gap

CENTRE HALL – As part of a 45-day public review of the environmental assessment on the Potters Mills Gap project, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation held a public meeting on Wednesday evening at the Centre Hall Elementary School.

The $115 million project is broken into three phases, with the first phase scheduled for bid letting later this year. The first phase consists of work near the Mifflin-Centre county line in the area of Sand Mountain Road, where an interchange and bridge are expected to be built.

Prior to the start of public testimony, Project Manager Steven L. Fantechi addressed some of the issues brought to light following the environmental assessment.

Fantechi said as part of the assessment they have to check on the potential impact the project may have on endangered species. In the case of this project, there is the possibility that two species of threatened bats may be near the construction site, but Fantechi said he does not believe the bats be a hinderance to the project.

Fantechi said it is a requirement to mitigate any potential impact to endangered species, which he said he believes can be done in this case.

The 3.75-mile stretch that encompasses the Potters Mills Gap project is formed by Treaster and Kohler Mountains. The current two-lane road in the area would be widened to four lanes and slightly shifted from its current location.

Fantechi said there are 10 residential property owners that will be impacted by this project and one business, Brownie’s Mountain Tavern.

Mifflin County Planning Director Bill Gomes was in attendance for the meeting and said the project has long been a priority for the county.

Gomes said there is a clear economic impact for Mifflin County and this was consistent with the recent county comprehensive plan.

As the public started to trickle in to the school, many went to a room where PennDOT officials explained the plans for the project before heading to a separate room where public testimony was to be heard.

Unlike the July 2013 meeting held in Penns Valley where hundreds showed up, Wednesday’s meeting drew a much smaller crowd. Only one person had signed up to give public testimony, Elvin Engel, owner of Seven Mountains Camp Ground. The campground is located in the area of the first phase of the Potters Mills project.

Engel expressed concern over the interchange’s impact on safety for his campground as well as his neighbor’s campground.

Private testimony was also offered to anyone who wished to speak with PennDOT officials. All testimony was recorded and will be supplemented with any submitted written testimony by the public.

Once PennDOT closes the public comment period on May 19, a report will be forwarded to the Federal Highway Administration for consideration. An environmental decision is expected this summer.