By Denise Allabaugh, Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice
WILKES-BARRE — Wilkes University launched a $1.5 million streetscape improvement project at a “sidewalk breaking” event on Monday morning in front of the Henry Student Center on West South Street.
The project will include repairing sidewalks and installing new ones, adding street lighting and curb ramps, and planting trees on West South and South Franklin streets.
It also will include adding a safer pedestrian crosswalk and crossing signals in front of the Henry Student Center, said Wilkes University President Patrick Leahy.
Wilkes received a $1.07 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for the project and the university contributed $430,000.
“It’s a relatively small investment as investments go, but nonetheless one that will have a huge impact on our campus and on our community,” Leahy said. “This is all money that we believe would not be spent here in downtown Wilkes-Barre if it were not for our willingness here at Wilkes to step up and provide the match.”
State Sen. John Yudichak said it takes private dollars to leverage public dollars and “that’s what Wilkes University has done over the last several years.”
“Wilkes University is transforming itself into a nationally recognized research university with a vibrant and beautiful urban campus,” Yudichak said.
Leahy, Yudichak, Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George and Cassandra Coleman, director of Gov. Tom Wolf’s northeast regional office, watched as Charles Fuller of Latona Construction used a jackhammer for the sidewalk breaking event, marking the beginning of the project.
Latona Construction is the project contractor and PennDOT is the project supervisor. Derck and Edson Associates are project designers. Subcontractor Kuharchick Construction will install the lights.
The West South Street portion of the project is expected to be completed by the end of July, with the South Franklin Street portion completed by mid-August. Some lane and street closings are expected to occur as work progresses.
George said Wilkes-Barre citizens will benefit from Wilkes University’s investment and “will be able to enjoy beautiful and safe surroundings.”
The project also will inspire neighboring businesses to put more investments into the city, the mayor said.
“The improvements to the Wilkes University campus will further attract students and their families to our city’s businesses and various community events,” George said. “This is yet another step in reviving the city to the prominence it once had.”