Shanna Murphy-Sosko

Shanna Murphy-Sosko, a community development planner with the Cambria County Planning Commission, provides details about the William Penn Avenue Corridor Plan during a public meeting at Stevens Memorial Holy Church in Johnstown's Prospect neighborhood on Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – A plan for how to develop a safer and more attractive William Penn Avenue corridor in Johnstown’s Prospect neighborhood is near completion.

The Cambria County Planning Commission provided details about the draft outline during a meeting with two dozen citizens at Stevens Memorial Holy Church on Wednesday night. The five main steps would be to improve pedestrian infrastructure, enhance vehicular traffic safety, manage stormwater, beautify and recreate, and organize community volunteers.

Ideas include modernizing lighting, trimming vegetation, repairing sidewalks, creating bus pullouts, installing a rain garden, adding public art and forming a neighborhood group.

“It’s all implementable stuff,” said Shanna Murphy-Sosko, a community development planner with the commission. “No one here is asking for the moon.

“It’s pretty basic maintenance. If we can get an implementation partner who’s investing in really working hard for this and we’ll try for some funding, I do think a lot of these goals could happen, probably not tomorrow.”

The planning commission cannot independently carry out any of the recommendations, so they will look to work with the City of Johnstown, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and other organizations.

Funding will also be sought, a process that will involve showing the plan to possible contributors.

“How do we go from this to actually making this happen?” asked Chris Allison, the commission’s executive director. “I would imagine that we’re going to be wanting to meet more with the stakeholders and try to start developing some of these projects.”

Prospect residents have been providing input since the idea of developing the corridor plan was conceived in 2020.

Johnstown City Councilwoman the Rev. Sylvia King was also an early supporter of the project.

“First of all, I’m encouraged that they’re still on target, even though it might have seemed like there was a lapsed period of time, and that the enthusiasm and interest in the project is still there,” King said. “It’s going to take some work for us to get there. But nonetheless I really think this speaks highly to Prospect and to the residents that they have turned out, that they still get involved.”

One idea discussed during the yearslong process was the possibility of planting an orchard at the site of the demolished structures known as the “box houses” along William Penn Avenue.

“That was just a plan so that the land didn’t just lay there,” King said, “but what happened is when the houses came down, there was interest from the neighbors in the community who lived next door or adjacent to them. They purchased those lots, so now those lots are back in taxation.

“That’s great. That’s what we wanted.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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