WILKES-BARRE ‚?? Calling it one of the most important projects to the future success of the city, Mayor Tom Leighton on Tuesday said the $14 million Coal Street widening project is nearing completion and all five lanes will be open to traffic by mid-September.
‚??For many months, residents and visitors to Wilkes-Barre have witnessed this future taking shape as the new Coal Street has slowly emerged,‚?Ě Leighton said. ‚??This expanded roadway will improve the gateway from Interstate 81 into the city.‚?Ě
Leighton said the wider, improved Coal Street will create jobs and increase city tax revenue as more people will find it easier to get into the city. Leighton said the $14 million project will:
‚?Ę Divert visitor and business traffic directly into the downtown.
‚?Ę Create a local-traffic throughway called Walter‚??s Way, which has been constructed from sections of Old Coal Street.
‚?Ę Add 90 new streetlights.
‚?Ę Include new sidewalks, traffic signalization and handicapped accessibility ramps.
‚?Ę Provide 53 parking spots once the project is complete, more than were available before it began.
The entire project is scheduled to be completed in the fall, with the roadway expected to be fully opened by the middle of September. Leighton said some remaining construction items such as benches and landscaping will be completed later in the year.
PennDOT is overseeing the project that is funded 80 percent with federal funds, while county and local money will cover the remainder.
As Phase I of the Coal Street Realignment Project nears completion, Leighton said Phase II ‚?? extending Coal Street across Wilkes-Barre Boulevard to Union Street ‚?? remains unfunded. He said the city is hopeful that funding will become available. Phase II was estimated to cost an additional $12 million.
‚??The ultimate goal is to fund Phase II of this project that will finally achieve an uninterrupted connection from downtown to I-81,‚?Ě Leighton said.
Leighton said the roadway project is the ‚??capstone of a commitment‚?Ě that he made to the Coal Street neighborhood when he took office in 2004. Leighton added that the $12 million Coal Street Park renovation has greatly enhanced not just the neighborhood, but the entire city.
Butch Frati, the city‚??s operations director, said the park splash pad is still not operating properly. He said the latest issue concerns the chlorinator. Water pressure has been low in the fountains and Frati said the city is working to get the splash pad fixed to perform at optimum level.