$3.14 million construction project nears completion

TEMP ORARY February 2, 2012 0

Elizabethtown College students frequent the streets of College Avenue and South Market Street. During this commute, students may notice construction vehicles parked on West College Avenue, the section of the road that continues across South Market Street at the intersection with College Avenue. There are also cement block walls framing the intersection on each corner of the sidewalk. On West Bainbridge Street, in the direction of the Dove Chocolate factory, the road is barricaded with temporary cement medians to prevent traffic.

After years of planning, the $3.14 million West College Avenue construction is projected to be complete this spring. Upon the completion of a new bridge over Conoy Creek, West College Avenue will be connected with West Bainbridge Street. West College Avenue’s name will be changed to West Bainbridge Street. Meanwhile, the abandoned part of West Bainbridge Street, which connects to South Market Street next to Brothers Pizza, will be renamed Union Street. Jack Mentzer, chief of police, said the new names should go into effect within 30 to 60 days. The bridge should also be open to traffic in the spring with a rough coat of asphalt, if the weather continues to cooperate. The finishing coat of asphalt will be added in the summer.

The idea of connecting West College Avenue and West Bainbridge, for a straight shot out of town, has been discussed for at least seven to eight years. However, it was first put into action four years ago, when M&M/Mars Inc. decided to expand their Elizabethtown factory with the construction of the Dove Chocolate factory.

The new plant required expansion over old West Bainbridge Street and provided a reason to begin the West College Avenue construction. “To accommodate that change and keep traffic flowing, the Borough planned to build the bridge and create a ‘second town square’ at College and Market streets,” Elizabethtown Borough Councilman Jeff McCloud said.

The cement walls, seen at the intersection of South Market Street and College Avenue, as well as the addition of traffic lights, are part of the “second town square.”

However, the construction got off to a rough start. The demolition of a service station, previously located at the intersection of West College Avenue and South Market Street, was required but old underground gas storage tanks interfered with the construction.

“Environmental studies and remediation required by the state delayed the project by several months,” McCloud said. These efforts cost the Borough an additional $81,000, not in the original $3.14 million budget. In addition, the construction was further delayed after the area experienced extensive damage due to the September 2011 flooding from Tropical Storm Lee. Some of the work previously done was completely erased.

Nonetheless, the construction moved forward. Borough council members came to a consensus Jan. 5 that the roads should be renamed to avoid confusion. If first responders were heading to an incident they might turn on West Bainbridge without realizing it was not connected to the other portion of the road. “Common sense prevailed,” Mentzer said. “It would be problematic to have a disjoint street and then have it start up again a quarter mile away; the block numbers would be separate.” In addition, two other roads’ names will be renamed. Verdant Alley will become East Verdant Alley and Union Alley will become West Verdant Alley. All of these changes are expected to make travel through the Borough easier for motorists.

Beyond the value of smoother travel, there is some historical value to the project. The College first operated from within the building that is now home to Brothers Pizza. Prior to the campus’ completion, the College held its first classes in the building on the corner of South Market Street and West Bainbridge Road. At that time, the road now known as College Avenue was called Union Street. Therefore, Elizabethtown Borough Council President Phil Clark decided it would be appropriate to change the abandoned portion of West Bainbridge Street to Union Street, to incorporate the history the College and Borough share.

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