Transportation and construction projects were the focus of the annual State of Carlisle breakfast held by the Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce Monday morning.
The event included updates on Interstate 81, the former Masland/IAC site and the U.S. Army War College.
After those updates, the chamber’s executive director, Michelle Crowley, offered an update of her own, telling attendees that the organization hopes to close on its purchase of the Swarner House, located next to Lamberton Middle School, on June 28.
Though its current location at 212 N. Hanover St. is for sale, the chamber will continue to work from there until it moves on Aug. 19.
Last year, PennDOT updated a decade-old study on the widening of I-81 from the Maryland state line to the I-78 split. The price tag came in at about $3 billion.
“To put that into a little context for us as the three county area, we’re typically responsible for expending about $70 million a year for infrastructure,” said Steve Deck, executive director of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission. “That’s 43 years of worth of taking everything that’s allocated to our region and spending it on nothing but widening 81.”
The grand total for widening Interstate 81 in Pennsylvania, from Maryland to I-78, is pushing $3 billion according to the latest highway study…
The all-but-impossible price tag prompted Harrisburg Area Transportation Study to join its counterparts in Franklin and Lebanon counties for a new project, the Interstate 81 Improvement Strategy.
The study expands the area of the widening study by going from the Maryland state line to Exit 90 and will include I-78 from I-81 to Exit 6 as well as the roads and infrastructure that influence traffic on the interstate.
The two-phase study will take 18 months to complete. The bulk of the time, a full year, will be spent on phase one, which will set a priority list of needs within each area. The study will look at such factors as the type, location and severity of crashes as well as the condition of the road and bridges. It will look at concentrations of truck traffic and how much delay the interstate and local roads face.
That data will then be used to focus on strategies to address conditions at specific areas. Deck said there was no set number of focus areas, but it could be “something in the ballpark of about half a dozen.”
Phase two will take six months and will identify projects within the focus areas to be included in improvement plans.
“What we want to be able to do is to go through this study and immediately be able to go into the design stage so that the length of time between doing the analysis, identifying the focus areas, coming up with the improvement strategies is as short as possible,” Deck said.
The study will present its work on a website that will offer an opportunity for public input, Deck said. The website, I-81SouthCentralPA.com, is expected to be up and running in early July.
The program also will include roundtable discussions with officials at the local, county and state level, one-on-one interviews with major shippers and receivers and public open house events during both phases.
By the end of 2020, Deck expects there will be detailed agreement on what the highest priorities are in the roughly 100-mile corridor.
“We will have an agreed-upon approach to exactly how are we going to invest the dollars moving forward to improve the interstate,” he said.
At last year’s State of Carlisle event, Harold Brandt, chief financial officer of Carlisle Events, presented a timeline that anticipated site work being completed at the former Masland/IAC site by the end of December 2018. Construction would be underway at the car condos and the hotel. Stormwater projects on the eastern side of the property would have been finished, and the infrastructure improvements contained in the Carlisle Connectivity Project would have been started.
“If we hit those goals, we were thinking the hotel would open this year. The restaurant would open in the same time period. The apartment buildings would be started in 2019 along with the town homes, and we were hoping to be completed by 2023,” Brandt said.
They didn’t get there. Brandt said 107 construction days were lost last year due to rain, and they have already lost 39 days this year due to weather.
Changes to key roads on the north end of Carlisle could begin as early as next month with construction continuing for three years.
With that in mind, Brandt optimistically set out a timeline for 2019, depending on the weather.
Brandt said they hope to finish the installation of storm drain piping and replace curbs along the west side of Carlisle Springs Road by the end of June. July will see base paving on Carlisle Springs Road, and the connections of A, B, C and D streets will be made to Carlisle Springs Road. Curb replacement on the east side of Carlisle Springs Road, installation of new light pole bases and the replacement of the western sidewalk will also be completed.
August is expected to see the replacement of the eastern sidewalk and the final paving of Spring Road.
“That’s our estimated time frame — again, weather dependent,” Brandt said.
Groundbreaking on the Homewood Suites hotel will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday, and Brandt said they were hoping to see construction begin within the next 30 days.
A single developer has taken the option for three parcels on which apartment buildings or stacked flats are planned. To do so, the developer asked for changes to the mixed zoning ordinance, which is anticipated to be adopted later this summer.
“We’re hoping that by mid-October, in that time frame, that he goes ahead and he’s able to break ground,” Brandt said.
Carlisle Events intended to get car condos, living spaces designed to store and display cars, under construction by now, but demand has softened since the first building quickly sold out.
They are now looking at what the market might support, Brandt said.
“If that product doesn’t work out, we’ll go ahead and we’ll get some other market-rate housing to use that space,” he said.
The spotlight for redevelopment projects in Carlisle will shine on the former Masland/IAC site in the coming year.
The commercial retail area will include the previously announced Marcello’s restaurant. Brandt said they are marketing the remainder of that lot for retail and possibly an additional restaurant.
The efforts may get a boost because the northern corner of Carlisle is included in a federal qualified opportunity zone, which could attract new capital and investments, Brandt said.
“We’re excited about the opportunities this presents for that,” he said.
Army War College
Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Sally Hannan will look back on her time at Carlisle Barracks, which she dubbed “500 acres of just absolutely the heart of what’s going on in our Army and in our nation,” with appreciation when she leaves at the end of the month.
“The amount of support in this community is unbelievable and like nothing else that I’ve ever seen in 21 years of service,” Hannan said.
Over the past decade, the importance of the Barracks and the U.S. Army War College for the Army and Department of Defense has been reflected in “significant decisions and investments,” Hannan said.
At a recent ceremony, the college graduated 400 students. Eighty of them were international fellows representing 78 countries, a number that doubles the scope of the original mission, she said.
The growth shows that senior leadership sees the “Army to Army” relationship between the United States and its NATO allies as essential, and Carlisle is part of that equation.
“This is seen as a community that demonstrates America’s values,” she said. “It is a welcoming home that absolutely represents those values that we see as part of Army.”
Recent changes on base have included the construction of the McConnell Youth Center and revamping the housing, including significant upgrades to the older homes on the installation.
Groundbreaking for a new golf clubhouse was held last month with construction expected to be finished by the end of the year, Hannan said.
“These investments are done because there’s value seen in doing it in this little spot here in Carlisle,” she said.
Congressman Dewey Short had words of warning for the public and U.S. Army War College students.
An investment is coming in the new academic building to replace Root Hall, which was built in 1965-66. The total cost for the project is $98 million. Funding for the project is under review by Congress, Hannan said.
“If that passes, we’ll actually begin construction in late spring, early summer of next year,” she said.
Hannan said officials have been working with local municipalities, the county and the state to capitalize on opportunities to “make the construction of that facility really a great event not only inside the fence-line but also complements that which is outside the fence-line.”