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Multiple crashes temporarily close I-80 Tuesday morning

DuBOIS — Multiple vehicle crashes on a snowy Interstate 80 temporarily closed the highway for several hours Tuesday morning, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. 

At about 6 a.m. Tuesday, PennDOT announced the closure of I-80 eastbound and westbound between exits 90 and 97 because of vehicle crashes which started overnight. This is the area between the DuBois Regional Airport in Jefferson County to Route 210 DuBois/Brockway, Clearfield County.

I-80 westbound was reopened as of 7:30 a.m., with eastbound lanes reopening around 11:30 a.m., according to PennDOT.

"I-80 westbound had multiple crashes, including a jack-knifed tractor trailer," said Christina Gibbs, community relations coordinator for PennDOT District 10. Gibbs noted these crashes happened between exits 90-120.

"I-80 eastbound had a car over an embankment between exits 90-120, and two tractor trailers in a crash with roadway debris that was between exits 90-97," Gibbs said.

The Sandy Township Volunteer Fire Department responded to I-80, beginning at 1 a.m. until 4:15 a.m., according to Chief Rob Burgeson.

Firefighters were called to mile marker 106.3 for a reported vehicle off of the road, Burgeson said. No injuries were reported.

Fire department personnel also responded to mile marker 95, where multiple vehicles were involved in an accident; there was no entrapment and possibly minor medical treatment, Burgeson said.

Later Tuesday morning, crews were called to the exit near Falls Creek to assist police with traffic control, said Burgeson. 

More details will be provided as they become available from authorities.

— Ben Destefan of The Courier Express contributed to this article.


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Permanent drive-thru addition being installed at Christian Food Bank of St. Marys

ST. MARYS — The Christian Food Bank of St. Marys is turning a spur-of-the-moment pandemic tactic into a permanent and convenient service for clients.

The food bank received CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds from Elk County, as well as the City of St. Marys, which is being put to use by installing a full-time drive-thru area beside the food bank building on South Michael Road.

CARES Act funds also provided CFB with a new freezer for storage.

Director Georgia Wagner said when the COVID-19 pandemic began to get bad, they jumped into offering drive-thru services, where volunteers would put the boxes of food in the clients' trunks as they would pass through. This offered less contact for both the volunteers and the clients. The process was successful and went very smoothly.

Daghir Construction of St. Marys began working on the groundwork for the drive-thru in October, said CFB board member Bob Luchini, experiencing some delays now in acquiring the steel.

The process itself will take clients through the front gate, in a loop around the building and then right into the drive-thru itself, which conveniently leads them straight back to the main road again.

The steel building will also protect volunteers from the rain and the cold during the winter months.

The food bank received very positive feedback from clients about the drive-thru process, sand Luchini. In fact, more senior citizens have signed up, because the process offers more privacy, with them being able to stay in their cars.

Since the pandemic, CFB has seen a spike in both its volunteers and donations, Luchini said, mentioning that they are grateful for the dedicated volunteers that worked all throughout COVID-19.

The drive-thru will also provide more storage inside of the building, as things will be rearranged, he added.

CFB has been aiming to spread awareness about its services in the community through its Facebook page, even providing “Thankful Thursdays,” where heartwarming letters from clients are posted anonymously.

For example, one posted in November read: “Everything always goes very smooth when picking up our food. The thoughtful extra items for my son, he gets really excited each week for those. Thank you to each and every single person that is involved with the food bank. God has blessed us for this extra help every week. Thank you.”

The food bank often receives acts of kindness. This month, the American Legion Riders donated Sheetz cups with a $50 gift card, which were distributed to CFB recipients who are veterans, said Wagner.

Follow The Christian Food Bank on Facebook. Call 814-834-1951 for more information. 


Local
PennDOT pushes forward with bridge tolling proposal by hosting virtual meeting for North Fork project

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is currently hosting a virtual public meeting for the proposed Interstate 80 North Fork bridges project in Jefferson County until Dec. 22. The meeting can be accessed online by visiting www.penndot.gov/i80NorthFork.

The North Fork bridges project is a candidate for bridge tolling through the Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership Initiative (MBP3I), as part of the PennDOT Pathways program. The bridges cross over the North Fork Redbank Creek in Brookville Borough and Pine Creek Township. 

This final virtual public meeting includes new information about PennDOT's proposed tolling strategy for the North Fork and Canoe Creek (Clarion County) projects because of their proximity on Interstate 80 and public feedback. According to the virtual meeting, PennDOT has decided to pursue one-way tolling at both projects, a change from its initial proposal to toll in both directions.

PennDOT said it will toll westbound traffic at North Fork and eastbound traffic at Canoe Creek. Tolls are expected to be $1 to $2 for passenger cars using an electronic E-Z Pass, with higher rates for toll-by-plate vehicles and medium to heavy trucks.

PennDOT officials have previously explained tolls could be in place for 30 years as part of the proposal, with funds collected through tolls paying for the reconstruction, maintenance and operation of the specific candidate bridge projects. Tolling could begin as early as 2023, varying by project.

PennDOT is reporting a current budget gap of $8.1 billion in highway and bridge funding. The Pathways program identifies potential alternative funding options, including the proposed tolling of nine candidate bridge projects across the state.

The North Fork bridges were built in 1962 and most recently rehabilitated in 2013. According to PennDOT, the eastbound bridge is in poor condition and the westbound bridge is in fair condition. Both bridges are reaching the end of their serviceable lifespan. The proposed project includes the replacement and realignment of the North Fork bridges on I-80, as well as the replacement of the dual I-80 bridges over Jenks Street and the Richardsville Road bridges over I-80, and other improvements.

PennDOT estimates the cost of the North Fork project to be between $165 million and $185 million.

Combined, the North Fork eastbound and westbound bridges are expected to carry approximately 30,897 vehicles daily, according to PennDOT. An estimated 44 percent of the traffic over the bridges is truck traffic.

The project team will be accepting comments throughout the duration of the virtual meeting comment period, which ends at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 22. Online comments can be submitted directly from the meeting website or via the below methods:

  • Email: i80NorthFork@pa.gov
  • Phone: 814-796-5009
  • Mail: PennDOT District 10, Attn: 1-80 North Fork Bridges Project, 2550 Oakland Avenue, Indiana, PA 15701-3388

The public can also attend an in-person public open house for the project on Wednesday, Dec. 15, from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Hickory Grove Elementary School, 104 Jenks St., in Brookville. The public can drop by any time during the open house at their convenience.

Ongoing opposition

Just last week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill intended to put the brakes on PennDOT's current bridge tolling plan. Senate Bill 382 would require PennDOT to publicly advertise toll proposals, take public comment and seek approval from both the governor and the Legislature.

The bill now returns to the Senate for another vote.

Sen. Wayne Langerholc, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and Republican whose 35th District includes part of Clearfield County, unveiled the DRIVE SMART Act earlier this year as a different approach to help address PennDOT’s current reported budget deficit.

Langerholc, who authored Senate Bill 382 as part of his DRIVE SMART initiative, recommends using federal funding as a key component to improve Pennsylvania's interstate bridges.

Congressman Glenn "GT" Thompson, Sen. Cris Dush and Rep. Brian Smith — who represent Jefferson County at various levels of government — have all voiced opposition of PennDOT's bridge tolling proposal.


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Spitzer adds Murray's Ford-Lincoln and Honda to family of dealerships

DuBOIS — The Spitzer family is welcoming Murray’s Ford-Lincoln and Murray’s Honda to their family of car dealerships, continuing their growth in the DuBois area.

Spitzer purchased the two dealerships located on the Blinker Parkway in DuBois on Oct. 19, according to Spitzer Management Chief Operating Officer Andrew Spitzer.

He noted that the two stores have been renamed Spitzer Ford-Lincoln DuBois and Spitzer Honda DuBois.

Last August, Spitzer acquired the former Johnson Motors and Johnson Subaru, located just 1 mile up on the Blinker Parkway.

Over the last year, “That’s when we got introduced to the DuBois community, and we’ve learned what an amazing area DuBois is,” said Spitzer.

So, Spitzer said, the decision was an easy one when the opportunity came about to add two more locations with great brands in the DuBois area.

Shortly after the purchase of the Johnson dealerships, Spitzer said they began talking with Greg Murray of Murray’s Ford-Lincoln and Murray’s Honda.

“That’s kind of how we began the conversation, and now we’re here, where we have a couple more stores in the Spitzer family,” he said.

Murray’s Family of Dealerships dates back to 1968, when it was founded by Harvey “Harv” Murray, and they have been run by the Murray family since.

Spitzer is a fourth-generation family-owned business. It was started in 1904 in Grafton, Ohio, by George G. Spitzer and was later taken over by John Spitzer in the 1950s. John Spitzer grew the business to multiple locations in four states.

In the 1980s, John Spitzer turned over the daily operations to his son Alan and John’s brother Del where they continued to grow the Spitzer footprint to include locations from Ohio and Pennsylvania to Florida.

“The most important thing to know is while the name Spitzer is going to be on the building, all of the same friendly, familiar faces that the Murray’s customers have come to know over the past few decades are still going to be there. We’re keeping the same people,” said Spitzer. “I think Greg has done a great job in the past with building a team and building a business to be proud of and we just hope we can continue to honor what he’s done and maybe continue to grow a bit too. We look forward to earning the trust of our employees over the coming years.”

Spitzer Ford-Lincoln DuBois and Spitzer Honda DuBois employee approximately 100 people, he said.

“We also want to make sure people know that Spitzer is looking to be a part of the DuBois community, because that’s really important to us,” said Spitzer. “At the end of the day, we’re a family company. We’re a fourth-generation family business and we’re only as good as our communities.”

Spitzer also noted that Spitzer will still be selling new and pre-owned cars, and the manufacturers for the new cars will be Ford, Lincoln and Honda.

“That’s not changing. We’re just going to be bringing some of the additional benefits that all of our customers have,” said Spitzer. “For new cars, we do no additional costs, (there is also) lifetime powertrain warranty under our Spitzer Shield. We also have our own certified pre-owned program too. That way if you buy pre-owned, you have the peace of mind of having a warranty at no additional cost. We just want to make sure that people understand that they can purchase and service their cars without having to think twice.”

Even though inventory levels are the biggest challenge in the vehicle business currently, Spitzer said they have been able to “get creative and try and find ways to move forward, not just inventory, but quality inventory because we’re not the type of company to just buy a paper weight and slap some wheels on it and make it look good to go. We want our customer to have a good experience because we want you to come back and be our customer again.

“Inventory’s been a big challenge, but we’ve been in business since 1904,” said Spitzer. “We’ve made it through the Great Depression and the Great Recession and everywhere in between. We like to think we roll with the punches and we’re going to stick through this and we’re going to be here.”


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