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Concerns Raised Over PennDOT Projects, Autumn Leaf Festival Road Closure Requests

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 @ 12:06 AM

Posted by Aly Delp

5A48785D-001CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Could the ongoing construction projects on Interstate 80 and US 322 affect plans for Clarion’s annual Autumn Leaf Festival?

(Photo by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography)

The issues of whether or not the ongoing construction projects will be finished and how they could interfere with road closure requests for Clarion’s annual Autumn Left Festival were recently mentioned at a Clarion Borough Council meeting.

While timelines for the projects on Interstate 80 – including the lane closure beginning 0.17 miles west of the Clarion/Venango County line running to approximately 11.32 miles east of the Jefferson/Clarion County line and the ongoing weekend ramp closures throughout the county – are not currently available, PennDOT District 10 Community Relations Coordinator Christina Gibbs told exploreClarion.com work on the Elmo Bridge and the Walls Memorial Bridge on US 322 is expected to run into the fall months.

With road work possibly ongoing during the timespan the Clarion Chamber of Business & Industry requests closures on Main Street/US 322 for the festival activities, concerns that those closures may not be approved are understandable.

Nevertheless, Tracy Becker, Executive Director of the Clarion Area Chamber of Business & Industry, says she isn’t overly concerned.

“It’s really not even an issue. Anytime a community has an activity that requires closure of a road owned by the state, you have to go to PennDOT and ask for permission for that closure,” Becker explained.

“It also puts the closure on their radar and their maps in case anything happens.”

An incident where “something happened” and last-minute changes had to be made occurred at the Autumn Leaf Festival just a few years ago after an accident closed Interstate 80 for a time, causing traffic from the Interstate to take over US 322 through Clarion during the time when Main Street was scheduled to be closed for the Kiddie Parade.

“They called me and said ‘we authorized this, but because of the accident, we need to allow people on Route 322 and can’t allow the closure.’ So, Chief Peck came to my office and we made Plan B, and in a matter of an hour, we had gone to PennDOT and let them know that we were moving the parade to Liberty Street, which is a borough street.”

Having backup plans prepared is always a good idea, according to Becker.

“Like with anything else, we just have to put in the request and hope they will say ‘yes,’ but know that they could say ‘no,’ and we might have to go to a backup plan.”

Becker also noted that in previous years, PennDOT has had larger construction projects in the local area that continued into the fall when ALF was scheduled to take place, and they still managed to work with the festival organizers to allow for the necessary closures to take place.

“PennDOT knows we hold this event every year, and we stay in contact with our local PennDOT officials and talk on a regular basis. We’ve worked with them in the past where they have stopped construction for the big weekend, the second weekend of the festival, and opened up as much as they could so traffic could run somewhat smoothly. The last thing they want to do is have miles of people stuck on Interstate 80 trying to get to the festival.”

Chief William Peck echoed Becker’s sentiments.

“About three or four years ago, there was a construction zone still active in the area, and we still got the approval for the road closures for the festival. PennDOT worked with the construction contractor to halt the construction for a time to allow for it,” Peck said.

“I’m hopeful the closure requests for this year will be granted. Whether the construction is completed or not, I hope we can get it worked out and have the festival this year.”

Peck said he expects to receive a response from PennDOT within a few weeks of submitting the requests.


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