JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Work on the long-awaited REACHland Connect sidewalk will begin this summer and end in the fall, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown President Jem Spectar said Thursday.
A groundbreaking event for the project took place outside College Park Apartments on Theater Drive in Richland Township to detail the first phase, which will pass nearby.
“It’s about the community and the students,” Spectar said. “It’s about safety and making sure people can get from point A to point B.”
This part of the work will start at Highfield Avenue – the entrance to UPJ – and continue down Schoolhouse Road, where it will connect at the corner of Theater Drive.
From there, the 3,400 foot sidewalk will turn into this street and stop at Kiwanis Memorial Veteran’s Park, for now.
Spectar said it took a lot of teamwork to get REACHland off the ground and thanked the many elected officials and officials who helped, especially Jennie Louwerse, PennDOT’s assistant secretary for multimodal transportation.
Part of the funding for the project comes from his ministry.
Louwerse noted the importance of community connectors such as the sidewalk and said how beneficial they are to the people who live there.
“These projects are transformational individually, but they have this multiplier effect at every level,” she said.
Jessica Gardner, a wheelchair user who lives in Richland Towers on Theater Drive, detailed the challenges she faces getting around the community and how REACHland will help her.
“These sidewalks are a game-changer,” she said, adding that they will improve everyone’s quality of life.
Spectar also noted the economic impact of the work.
He said allowing more people to walk would increase business patronage in that part of Richland Township.
State Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Township of R-Richland, said he envisions a day when those walking down Theater Drive will see many sidewalk users commuting to and from their homes, businesses and schools through this investment in infrastructure.
He said it was a great day for the community, but added that the work wasn’t done and there was no time to slow down.
Once all phases of the project are complete, a three-mile wellness loop will be available.
“It’s really about making the community more livable, more walkable, and more connected,” Spectar said.
Another topic discussed at the event was how this project could connect to other local trail networks in the future, such as the Path of the Flood Trail, which stretches from Johnstown to the South Fork. .
“Outdoor recreation is the gateway to economic development,” said Cambria County Chairman-Commissioner Thomas Chernisky.
Raymond Wrabley, chair of UPJ’s social science division and business and enterprise division, shared a similar point during his comments, saying outdoor opportunities add to the region’s brand.
Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.