Pattye Benson

Community Matters

PA Turnpike Commission

Residents Say No to 422 Tolling . . . What About the Leasing of I-95?

Governor-elect Corbett has his work cut out for him come January. During the campaign, he promised no new taxes yet took a pledge to “reduce congestion and build new roads”. Now will come the seriousness of how to pay for these promises. We all know where just the discussion of the ‘possible’ tolling of 422 factored in the last election!

It was with interest that I read a report from Harrisburg about I-95 through Philadelphia and the price tag for repairs and rebuilding. The 20-mile stretch was built back in the 70’s and probably epitomizes the severity of roads in the Commonwealth in need of serious repair. Considering its daily use as a major corridor that brings people into Philadelphia and through the area, a 95 rebuilding project would be massive (and costly).

With a price tag estimated to be $20 billion (the entire Pennsylvania Department of Transportation budget for new highway construction was $1.8 billion in 2010) some elected officials are scratching their head as how could the state ever pay for such a project. One idea being considered is leasing the highway as well as others across the state.

State Rep. Rick Geist (R-Blair), chair of the House Transportation Committee has been vocal that I-95 needs more than repairs, that this stretch of the highway will need to be rebuilt within the next 10 years. If you recall a couple of years ago, a stretch of the elevated road had to be shut down for repairs when large structural cracks were found in the support columns . . . warding off what could have been a serious situation had the overpass collapsed during the height of rush-hour.

Reflect on the overall state of roads in Pennsylvania. I have mentioned this before but I think it bears repeating – according to the Society of Civil Engineers, they have rated 38% of the Commonwealth’s roads at a ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ level. Folks, it doesn’t get much worse . . . in fact they further suggest that one-fourth of all the state’s bridges are structurally deficient and 17% of our bridges are deemed functionally obsolete. Scary, don’t you think?

So maybe the only solution for updating of the infrastructure is a private leasing arrangement. There is a group called the Public-Private Partnership (P3), which will take care of the cost of repairing and maintaining the major highways. So what does P3 gain from this arrangement? The private firms place tolls on the road to cover their expenses. Not sure if the Department of Transportation would have oversight or any control on the tolling levels. The Federal Highway Administration encourages the use of P3 partnerships as a means to pay for needed highway repairs when there are funding issues.

I know that many in the community were opposed to the tolling of 422 but I am curious if people feel likewise about I-95. And what about the notion of a private third-party making the decisions and setting the tolls? Pennsylvania’s road and bridge infrastructure is in crisis but, with so many lawmakers running in this last campaign on no increase in taxes platform, how are these roads and bridges repaired? The money must come from somewhere but I guess for me, I think the idea of a private leasing arrangement should be looked at very cautiously. The suggestion of ‘giving up control’ to a third-party; I just do not know if that is the solution.

Look at the aging Pennsylvania Turnpike. At approximately 70 years old, how will its future maintenance and care factor in to the transportation budget? In addition, how much revenue was lost with the failure to place tolls on I-80? Lawmakers are facing a $472 million annual transportation budget shortfall that was created by the loss of tolls on I-80. And that does not consider the suggestion last summer of an additional $3 billion increase annually to cover the cost of maintaining the aging roads and bridges.

With many newly elected officials arriving in Harrisburg with the no new tax mantra, how are these serious infrastructure problems going to be resolved? We need some vision for the future from our lawmakers. Not meaning to over-dramatize the situation but do they want the blood on their hands should a major catastrophe occur on one of these roads or bridges?

Does the state take charge of these needed transportation repair projects or does an independent leasing company take charge? Or, . . . do we do nothing and just ‘cross our fingers’.

Great Valley Association Annual Meeting – Wednesday, November 10

A reminder that the Great Valley Association’s Annual Meeting is tomorrow night, Wednesday, November 15, 7 PM at the township building. One of the major topic of discussions at the meeting will be the Pennsylvania Turnpike Open House scheduled for next week, November 16. The Great Valley Association has been actively involved with the turnpike expansion project and the Rt. 29 slip ramp.

For an update on the project and discussion of the upcoming open house, the public is invited to attend tomorrow night’s Great Valley Association meeting.

PA Turnpike Update Open House – Tuesday, November 16

Public Invited to Turnpike Open House for Update on Six-Lane Widening Project West of Valley Forge Exit

  • Project Update
  • Open House Plans Display
  • Total Reconstruction & Widening Project, Mileposts 320-326
  • Future Rt. 29 Interchange – Valley Forge Interchange

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Clarion Hotel
(Valley Forge Ballroom)
480 N. Gulph Road
King of Prussia, PA

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission invites the community to attend a project update open house to view revised engineering design plans to rebuild and widen the Turnpike between Milepost 320 (Future Rt. 29 All Electronic Interchange) and Milepost 326 (Valley Forge Interchange) in Chester and Montgomery Counties.

Informative project displays and mapping will be available for public review and representatives from the community, the Turnpike and its consultant team will be on hand to answer questions.

Questions can be directed to Don Steele or Mimi Doyle at the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Eastern Regional Office (610-279-1645) 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday. The meeting facility is ADA accessible; however, requests for special needs or accommodations to facilitate public participation should be directed to Mimi Doyle.

For Project Updates Visit

Great Valley Association Pleased Rt. 29 Slip Ramp Project Moves Forward, However . . . Stormwater & Sound Wall Issues Unresolved

In a letter to the Editor in this week’s Main Line Suburban newspaper (see letter below), Great Valley Association president Al Charpentier and Turnpike Sub-committee Chair Lou Erdelan expressed their gratitude for local officials assistance with the turnpike’s Rt. 29 slip ramp project. But as Al and Lou explain, open issues remain with the stormwater and sound walls in the planned turnpike expansion plans. Thanks Al and Lou for your update.

Speaking of the turnpike . . . As a member of the Design Roundtable for the Total Reconstruction and Widening Project of Milepost 320-326, I was just notified by the Turnpike Commission this week of a meeting to be held on August 31. Senator Andy Dinniman will attend the meeting and provide a recap of his discussion with the PA Turnpike Commission and will hope to resolve outstanding issues surrounding the turnpike expansion project. Representatives from the Turnpike Commission will update the Design Roundtable members on progress since our last meeting, which was held in March.

To the Editor:

You may have read the recent announcement that the PA Turnpike Commission (PTC) approved the long-delayed Route 29 slip-ramp project, now scheduled to get under way in March 2011 and be completed by late 2012. A widening of the roadway from four to six lanes is also in the planning stages.

The Great Valley Association created a Pennsylvania Turnpike sub-committee of private citizens in March 2005 to represent the residents of Tredyffrin living in addresses affected by the turnpike roadway in terms of stormwater control and noise abatement. Along with other residential groups, we partnered with township and local elected officials including State Rep. Paul Drucker, State Sen. Andy Dinniman and Tredyffrin Supervisor John DiBuonaventuro, who have been instrumental in moving both the slip-ramp and turnpike-expansion projects forward. While viewing these projects as separate, they have worked cooperatively with the PTC and other state officials on both, to protect local residents’ property and quality of life.

We thank our elected officials and the Turnpike Commission for resolving the slip-ramp issue. Remaining to be resolved are the stormwater issues and the sound-barrier issues for the widening in Tredyffrin and the same level of cooperation should make that resolution possible. While substantial progress has been made, these issues are still not fully resolved and GVA will continue to strive for a resolution that works for Tredyffrin residents.

Our local state representative, Paul Drucker, is confident “this project will not only ease congestion on local roads and reduce travel time for thousands of commuters, but [it] will create jobs.” Senator Dinniman views the turnpike’s decision to move forward with the slip ramp as “crucial to the continued vitality of our region.” Supervisor DiBuonaventuro says, “I view the Aug. 5 announcement [on the slip ramp] as having nothing to do with the sound-wall element of the 6-mile widening project… The progress made with respect to the widening project has been very positive over the last year [but] there are still both stormwater refinements and sound-wall issues to finalize.”

The GVA will continue to work on behalf of the residents along with our elected officials and turnpike management to provide effective sound walls and stormwater control as planning for the widening project unfolds.

More information will be forthcoming between now and the end of the year. Thank you.

Albert Charpentier, President, Great Valley Association
Lou Erdelan, Chairman, Turnpike Sub-Committee

Senator Dinniman Holds Neighborhood Meeting to Provide PA Turnpike Stormwater Updates . . . Great Valley resident Kathleen Keohane attends meeting and shares her notes

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.

What’s in the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Water?

What is wrong with the Pennsylvania Turnpike officials . . . they seem to have a high propensity to break the law. Have you been keeping track? There has been a steady flow of Turnpike officials in the news, including three arrests of Turnpike officials.

The latest Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission official caught red-handed was their chief operating officer. George Hatalowich, CFO was arraigned this past week for an incident that occurred in April. Hatalowich was charged with drunk driving, causing property damage, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident. He drove a car that spun out of control, then crashed in to a Hershey Park fence. However, that was not the end of it – he then drove off, heading north in a southbound lane. Police stopped him and his blood alcohol level was about double the legal limit.

Good news for the Turnpike Commission . . . Hatalowich was driving his private vehicle and was not on public time when the accident occurred. Hatalowich is in the process of applying for admission to the state’s rehab program, which is available to first time DUI offenders. If the program, which includes a suspended license and safe driving classes but no jail time, is fully completed by the offender, the DUI record is expunged. If the application is rejected or the program is not successfully completed, the offender will still face a criminal trial.

Hatalowich’s DUI charge follows the February resignation of Tim Carson, who was the vice chair of the Turnpike Commission. Carson had a couple of drunk driving accidents in 2003 and 2006, however unlike Hatalowich; Carson was driving state-owned vehicles. After Carson’s second DUI in 2006, he got a Turnpike Commission employee as a chauffeur. The chauffeur, Mimi Lindelow, was officially a Turnpike marketing/community relations officer but she spent much of her time driving Carson places in his Turnpike vehicle. Carson apparently had to be driven places because his driving license was suspended for a period following his second DUI conviction. However, Ms. Lindelow’s chauffeuring continued beyond the time he must have had his license restored. Here’s a downside to Carson’s resignation . . . he had to give up the Turnpike car and the ‘chauffeur’. Guess it’s back to her 9-5 desk job as the Turnpike’s community relations officer for Ms. Lindelow.

There was also the firing of the chair of the Turnpike Commission, Mitchell Rubin. Governor Rendell fired Rubin in March 2009 after the FBI began investigating Rubin for his connection to a political corruption scheme that was the mastermind of state Senator Vince Fumo. As an update, Rubin was sentenced to 6 months of house arrest in April. Fumo is serving a 54-month sentence in a federal prison in Kentucky.

Wonder what’s in the Turnpike Commission water? Speaking of the Turnpike Commission, I am a member of the Turnpike Commission Roundtable group and I have not received any communication for several months. What’s the status — does the Turnpike widening project continue to remain on hold? What about the Rt. 29 slip ramp? Or the sound walls along Yellow Springs Road? Maybe our elected officials could ask for an update from the Turnpike Commission.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Tolls Go Up Today

W.E. Rauth is the first to enter Valley Forge toll both of the PA Turnpike. Any idea what year this was?

For those of you who travel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority, be prepared to to lay out extra cash starting today, Sunday, January 3. The Turnpike Commission is raising the tolls by 3% (rounding up to the nearest nickel) which follows a 25% increase last year. The most common cash rate is 95 cents but instead of going up to 98 cents (3%) it will be rounded up to $1.00. With the passage of Act 44, the yearly increase is to go to PennDOT for non-turnpike and bridge projects. It is anticipated that there will be 3% increase annually to meet the terms of Act 44.

Just in Time for the Holiday Season . . . Great Valley Association Helps Save 18th Century Malvern Home

I am delighted to share this special story, just in time for the holidays.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful, historic home in the Great Valley. This 18th century home on Yellow Springs Road in Malvern has been home to many families since it was constructed in 1789. For over 2 centuries, this house has weathered major snowstorms, flooding and droughts; and its many owners have endured economic hardships, illness and disease through the years. The current owners, Mr. and Mrs. Feninger, however feared that their old house story was not going to have a happy ever after ending. You see, this historic house lay right in the path of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s planned expansion project! But the Feninger’s need not have worried; because for centuries neighbors in the Great Valley community have always helped each other in time of need. With the support and mission of the Great Valley Association to protect and preserve; and a willingness to listen from the PA Turnpike Commission, the treasured historic home has been saved. This wonderful old house will continue to provide special memories for its owners for many years to come. And that my friends is a happy-ending!

Below is Jill Feninger’s letter of appreciation which appears in today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper:

Thanks, GVA, for saving our home!

To the Editor:

Here’s a happy-ending story for the holiday season.

It began about a year ago. Neighbors, including myself, were invited to attend an open house hosted by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC). The PTC wanted to introduce local residents to a plan for widening the turnpike in our neighborhood. As I studied the plan I noticed that my home was covered with cross-hatches, indicating it would be claimed as a “total condemnation” in order to create a water basin to handle runoff from the turnpike. My heart sank. Our home for the past 21 years, a home built in 1789, was being taken. Completely. (Incidentally: my 83-year-old husband – a five-year pancreatic-cancer survivor – suffers from end-stage kidney disease and survives through hemodialysis. After making electrical and plumbing modifications to our guest room, we perform this daily procedure in our home.)

I felt totally at sea. But I needn’t have worried: also attending this PTC open house were members of the Great Valley Association, whose mission is “to preserve the character and quality of life for the residents in the Great Valley.” And for these past 10 months, this worthy organization has spent countless hours informing themselves, researching options, communicating with elected officials, writing letters, attending meetings, coordinating efforts.

Now here’s the happy-ending part: just before Thanksgiving we received a letter from the PTC; it seems they’ve revised their plans and our home will no longer be needed. We can stay in our home! I appreciate the open-mindedness of the PTC to consider other options. But I reserve most of my thanks to the members of the Great Valley Association Board. Without their support and determination I am certain we’d be spending this holiday season packing.

Jill Feninger, Malvern

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