Senator Andy Dinniman held a small meeting last night to focus on the PA Turnpike stormwater management issues. He brought together turnpike representatives as well as elected officials and individuals representing various homeowner and associated groups in the area. Kathleen Keohane, a resident of the Yellow Springs/Great Valley section of the township attended and graciously provided the following update notes from the meeting. Thank you Kathleen!
Notes from Great Valley Resident Kathleen Keohane
July 27, 2020
It was State Senator Andy Dinniman’s idea to bring decision-makers from the Turnpike Commission together with representatives of the Township and Tredyffrin‘s civic, neighborhood and environmental groups to discuss the Turnpike’s revised stormwater management plan. This is one part of the overall 6-mile-long road widening design plan that will also include sound walls along most of the roadway.
Major discussion points:
-Stormwater runoff from the turnpike will be controlled at near 100%, even with the now planned 26 foot median. This represents a significant improvement in volume control since the original stormwater plan was presented; Control rates exceed DEP standards and in almost all cases, meet Tredyffrin Township’s more stringent criteria.
– Only 18 properties in Tredyffrin will be affected under the revised plan– with 15 partial ‘takes” and 3 complete acquisitions. Among those three, no homeowner has been forced to sell. This also is a far cry from the original design plan which called for the partial taking of almost 90 properties and the acquisition of 8 homes.
The meeting, held in Keene Hall on Tuesday evening, drew about 50 people. As Senator Dinniman pointed out, “The decision-makers are all here” – including PTC’s head, Joe Brimmeier, Head Engineer Frank Kempf and Project Manager, Kevin Scheurich. State Rep. Paul Drucker attended, as did Supervisors Di Buonaventuro, Donahue and Richter. Representatives from civic, neighborhood and environmental groups were there, as well as several residents whose properties are being acquired by the Turnpike.
Most of the evening’s discussion focused on stormwater problems in the Glenhardie area. This eastern-most section of the 6-mile-long expansion project has proved to be the most challenging given the confluence of roadways, the large amount of impervious cover and the extent of local flooding in heavy rains and damage to Trout Creek.
The Township acknowledged that Turnpike runoff is not the only source of the neighborhood’s stormwater problems, and that a “regional” approach will be necessary – one that will involve the Township, PennDOT, commercial property owners as well as the turnpike.
While Tredyffrin stormwater expert and engineer Steve Burgo readily agreed that the Turnpike’s stormwater plan had evolved to include greater volume and rate control, he felt there was more that could be done at off-site locations.
The acquisition of a small parcel from the Richter property located at the confluence of Old Eagle School, Glenhardie and Walker Roads) was mentioned as was the use of a small piece of land (6.-1 acre in size) at Teegarden Park, near the top of the Trout Creek watershed.
Turnpike Engineer Kempf was firm in the limits of the Turnpike’s involvement. “We do not want to commit to something we cannot control,” he said. Since off-site property is privately held, there is the problem of eminent domain, which “could hold up the Turnpike’s project and add to the cost.”
Though the Turnpike is willing to listen to alternatives, in their view, they have proposed a viable solution that handles 100% of the turnpike’s runoff in the Glenhardie area. Despite some differences regarding what constitutes adequate stormwater mitigation in this area, a spirit of cooperation seemed genuine and all remaining issues appeared solvable as the meeting wound down.
Engineer Pete Goodman, past president of Trout Unlimited and a long-time advocate for maintaining the “exceptional value” of Valley Creek, brought up two areas of concern: that discharges from several of the Turnpike’s proposed detention basins would flow directly into Valley Creek or Wilson’s Run (a tributary) with no volume control. TP Project Manage Scheurich countered that the discharges were not direct in his view and met over 100% of the volume criteria. Both agreed to follow-up with more detailed discussions.
Near the end of the meeting, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro questioned the Turnpike’s decision to build a 26 foot median instead of the 16 foot size previously favored. From his perspective as an EMT – and echoing Police Chief Chambers’ position, a wider left-hand shoulder would encourage drivers to use it for emergencies. DiBuonaventuro believed it posed a danger to emergency vehicles coming to a driver’s aid as well as to drivers merging back into the fastest lane of traffic. Engineer Kempf defended the wider shoulder as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Bureau.
DiBuonaventuro also raised the issue of additional tree buffer having to be cut down to accommodate the extra 5 feet of roadway needed on each side for a 26- foot median. Kempf acknowledged that some additional trees would need to be cut down but promised to work on a property-by-property basis to determine what had to be cut. He pointed out that residents should be pleased that the Turnpike planned to build retaining walls instead of taking additional private property. He also committed to continue monthly Roundtable meetings throughout the entire construction phase so that residents could express their concerns.
Still, as one environmentalist pointed out, building a 26 foot median will require the elimination of 8.2 acres of woods over the length of the expansion in Tredyffrin That’s a lot of trees…..
Another meeting was scheduled for the end of August to continue what proved to be a very informative and useful discussion.