Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

PA Transportation funding bill fails – what does this mean for the future of Paoli Transit Center and Turnpike widening project?

Unfortunately, the clock just ran out for transportation funding in Pennsylvania, at least for the near future. Late on Monday night, the proposed $2.4 billion PA transportation funding bill was narrowly defeated on the House floor. The House legislators voted 98 – 103 against the bill, which would have provided new funding for much needed repairs on our roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems. So close and yet so far away – what does this vote mean for the future of the Paoli Transit Center and the PA Turnpike widening projects in Tredyffrin?

Prior to the House vote on the transportation bill, a critical Op-Ed, ‘Warren Kampf – Too Extreme for Tredyffrin’ written by Tredyffrin Democratic Party Chair Dariel Jamieson appeared in Main Line Suburban. The article focused on State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) lack of support for the transportation bill, making a claim that Kampf took a ‘no tax’ pledge and that he [Kampf] is “standing in the way of job creation and prosperity.”

Kampf immediately responded to Jamieson’s criticism with his own Op-Ed, ‘Kampf Refutes Jamieson’s no tax increase pledge’ suggesting that she [Jamieson] needed to “stick to the facts, instead of creating her own” and stating that he never took a ‘no tax’ pledge. Kampf restated that his opposition of the transportation-funding bill was a decision based on 60,000 of his constituents not wanting an increase in their gas prices to pay for the infrastructure improvements. Kampf separates his vote against the transportation funding bill from his support of local projects, claiming that he does support the Paoli Transit Center and the turnpike widening project.

In my opinion, the immediate future of the Paoli Transit Center was tied directly to the passage of transportation funding bill. I understand there was no guarantee that the money would have come to Paoli if the bill had passed but clearly without this state funding the future of the project now looks bleak. This is not a ‘doom and gloom’ forecast, more of a reality check. Money begets money – state funding was required for the transit center if the project was to receive federal funding. I had heard that if the transportation bill failed, the transit center was not going to stay on SEPTA’s funding list. So … where exactly is the funding going to come from for the transit center? Tomorrow night is the third (and final) Paoli Transportation Open House, 4:30 – 8 PM at the Township Building. In light of the defeated transportation bill, it will be curious to see how SEPTA representatives field funding questions at the Open House!

I think that the future of the PA turnpike widening and associated sound walls and storm water issues is more of a grey area. Residents whose homes are located along the PA Turnpike have been working on storm water and sound wall issues for years. These issues have affected property values, saleability etc. The PA Turnpike Commission previously stated that if the transportation-funding bill was not passed, their Capital Plan would be reduced by removing major projects. It’s unclear if the turnpike’s construction project in Tredyffrin Township will stay on the front burner or now move to the back of the stove.

Without the House vote to approve transportation funding, when (or if) will the funding for the state’s infrastructure improvements resurface? Once the momentum is lost, it is difficult to regain – since the funding was not approved in 2013, it’s highly unlikely that anything will happen during 2014 (election year).

In his response to Jamieson in Main Linen Suburban, Kampf reiterated his support of the Paoli Transit Center, but … how does he show his support for the project? With the defeat of the transportation funding bill, Rep. Kampf is going to have many very unhappy Paoli business owners who were counting on state financial support through this transportation bill, now looking to him for answers. And if the PA Turnpike Commission removes the Tredyffrin section of the widening project from their ‘to do’ list, 4,000 local residents are not going to be pleased and will want someone to blame.

I may not personally agree with Rep. Kampf on his vote not to support the transportation funding bill, but I do give him credit for his unfaltering commitment. He reported that he has 60,000 constituents who did not want him to support the transportation bill because it’s funding was tied to higher gas prices. Wrong or right, he never wavered on the transportation funding bill and his vote reflected that decision.

Bottom line … without the approval of the transportation funding bill, the residents of Pennsylvania are left with deteriorating roads and bridges and an uncertain future for the Paoli Transit Center and the PA turnpike widening project.

Mill Road Bridge Closes Monday, March 21 for 9 months!

For those of us living in the western Great Valley area of Tredyffrin, tomorrow, March 21 at 9 AM, the Mill Road Bridge will close for 9 months for repairs. Many of us routinely use Mill Road to connect between Yellow Springs and Swedesford Road . . . this is not going to be fun!

From the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission:
UPDATE: Mill Road Bridge to Close 9:00 AM March 21
Mill Road Traffic Restrictions in Tredyffrin Township Begin March 21
Bridge over I-76 to close at 9 a.m. Monday morning.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission advises motorists that the bridge carrying Mill Road over the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County will close to local traffic at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, March 21 with a passenger car and truck detour in effect until November.

G.A. & F.C. Wagman Inc., of York, Pa, was awarded the $4.2 million contract to replace the bridge in December 2010. The contractor anticipates the new bridge will be open to traffic before the end of the year. The bridge is located 3.5 miles west of the Valley Forge Interchange (Exit #326) and 10.5 miles east of the Downingtown Interchange (Exit #312).

Preparations for the mid-April demolition of the 60+ year old Mill Road Bridge began earlier this month when the contractor installed advance warning signs on the Turnpike mainline and local roads alerting motorists to the March 21 bridge closure and traffic restrictions. Detour signs have been posted along the two detour routes approved by the township and PennDOT for the duration of the bridge replacement project expected to last nine months.

Starting Monday morning (Mar. 21), through traffic traveling south on Mill Road will be detoured at Duportail Road and from the north at Yellow Springs Road where they intersect at the approach of the bridge.

Passenger cars will be directed over Duportail Rd., Swedesford Rd., State Route 252, Valley Forge Rd. (SR 252), Valley Creek Rd. (SR 252), and Yellow Springs Road to Mill Road (approx. 5.8 miles).

Trucks will follow Duportail Rd., Swedesford Rd., Moorehall Rd. (SR 29), and Yellow Springs Rd. to Mill Road (approx. 9 miles).

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

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Releases Press Release to Design Roundtable Members

As a member of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Design Roundtable, I received the following official press release concerning approval to construct the Turnpike’s Rt. 29 slip ramp. I know I posted Paul Drucker’s press release yesterday, however there is additional information contained in the PTC release that I found of interest, including the timeline for construction.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Approves Construction of Route 29 All-Electronic Interchange

Construction of the E-ZPass-only facility to start in March 2011 with opening expected in late 2012.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced today that it is moving ahead with the construction of an all-electronic interchange linking Route 29 with I-76 in Chester County. Located midway between the Downingtown exit (#312) and the Valley Forge exit (#326), the new facility will provide convenient access to and from such business parks as the Great Valley Corporate Center, the Commons at Great Valley, Atwater and business districts in Malvern and Paoli.

“The decision to move ahead to construction is a significant step that will enhance safety and convenience for thousands of Turnpike customers in the region traveling to and from work each day,” said Turnpike Chief Executive Officer Joe Brimmeier. “In addition, the interchange will cut travel times for thousands of other regional commuters and help relieve overcrowding on local roads.”

Each day about 45,000 to 50,000 vehicles travel the 14-mile stretch of Turnpike between Downingtown and Valley Forge.

The announcement was made at an event held this morning hosted by Senator Andrew Dinniman (D-19). He was joined by Pennsylvania Turnpike officials and other business and elected officials.

“The Route 29 interchange is crucial to the continued economic vitality of our region,” Senator Dinniman said. “We are pleased that the Turnpike Commission has agreed to advance the project to construction and appreciate their commitment to move expeditiously to achieve the 2012 completion date.”

State Representative Duane Milne (R-167) also stated his support for the project. “I am delighted that a positive resolution has been reached and that this vital infrastructure enhancement will be completed in the near future. This transportation upgrade will prove a positive step for the quality of life in our area.”

State Representative Paul Drucker (D-157) added, “I am pleased the Route 29 interchange project is finally moving forward. It will ease congestion on local roads, reduce travel time for thousands of commuters and create jobs.”

Brimmeier said the interchange will reduce backups at the Valley Forge Interchange (#326), at the I-76/Route 202 interchange and on Route 202 itself, and will contribute to an overall decrease in traffic on Route 29 in the vicinity of Swedesford Road and Matthews Road, and on Route 401 and Phoenixville Pike, west of Route 29.

Turnpike officials expect construction of the E-ZPass-only interchange will start in March 2011 with a late fall 2012 opening. The estimated $60 million project calls for bridges to be built over the Turnpike, over Yellow Springs Road, over Atwater Drive as well as construction of a culvert and several retaining walls. The construction area will cover one-half mile along the Turnpike in three separate Chester County municipalities: Charlestown Township, East Whiteland Township and Tredyffrin Township.

In March 2009, the Turnpike shelved plans to build the interchange while it worked to resolve design issues with the widening and reconstruction of the adjoining six-mile Turnpike section to the east of Route 29, between Mileposts 320 and 326. Over the past 16 months, the Commission has worked closely with township officials, residents, interest groups and elected officials to address concerns they raised about the widening project – most notably storm-water management and noise walls.

“We believe sufficient progress has been made to enable us to proceed with the design of the Milepost 320 to 326 reconstruction and widening project and the construction of the Route 29 interchange,” said Brimmeier.

PA Turnpike Commission Approves Construction of Rt 29 Slip Ramp!

The PA Turnpike Commission approved construction of the Route 29 slip ramp. I received the following press release from State House Rep Paul Drucker’s Office today:
Construction of Route 29 all electronic interchange approved

Today, I joined officials from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission at Atwater Business Park to announce approval of the construction of the all electronic interchange linking Route 29 with I-76 in Chester County.

This project will not only ease congestion on local roads and reduce travel time for thousands of commuters, but will create local jobs.

Located midway between the Downingtown exit (No. 312) and the Valley Forge exit (No. 326), the new facility will provide motorists with convenient access to and from such business parks as the Great Valley Corporate Center, the Commons at Great Valley, Atwater Business Park and business districts in Malvern and Paoli.

Turnpike officials said they anticipate the project to be bid in time to begin construction in March 2011, and plan to open the interchange to traffic in late fall of 2012. The project will include the building of bridges over the turnpike, over Yellow Springs Road, over Atwater Drive and the construction of a culvert and several retaining walls. The construction area will cover approximately one-half mile along the turnpike in three separate Chester County municipalities: Charlestown Township, East Whiteland Township and Tredyffrin Township.

The interchange is expected to reduce traffic congestion at the Valley Forge Interchange (No. 326), at the I-76/Route 202 interchange and on Route 202 itself, and contribute to an overall decrease in traffic on Route 29 in the vicinity of Swedesford Road and Matthews Road, and on Route 401 and Phoenixville Pike, west of Route 29.

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 Commission Update . . . Design Suspension Ceases; Moving Ahead With 6-Lane Widening Project in Tredyffrin

I am on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Design Roundtable and had received an update a couple of days ago from PTC; today the official announcement was released in Harrisburg. Interesting to note that the Route 29 slipramp is not moving ahead? Wonder how Vanguard and other local companies are taking that news? I actually thought that Senator Dinniman had announced awhile back that Rt. 29 was moving ahead, not sure what caused the snag. Below is the press release:

HARRISBURG, PA (04/26/2010)– The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced today that it is moving ahead with the design of a total reconstruction and six-lane widening project in Tredyffrin and Upper Merion townships, Chester and Montgomery counties. Engineering development of the project – located just west of the Valley Forge Interchange (Exit #326) between Mileposts 320 and 326 – was suspended in March, 2009.

Over the past 12 months, the Commission has been working with Tredyffrin Township, residents, special-interest groups and elected officials to address areas of concern the groups raised – primarily related to stormwater management features – which initially led to the year-long suspension.

In an effort to better understand and address concerns, the Commission organized a “Design Roundtable” in 2008 comprised of representatives of Tredyffrin Township, local homeowner associations, special-interest groups, elected officials and regulatory agencies. The Design Roundtable meets regularly with the Commission’s project team to discuss and provide input on the design. The Commission reconvened Design Roundtable meetings between October 2009 and March 2010 and simultaneously conducted Legislative Briefings to update elected officials regarding the Design Roundtable talks.

“We believe sufficient progress has been made to enable us to proceed cautiously, gradually reinstating design work on this vital project, including right-of-way acquisition for stormwater purposes,” said Frank Kempf, the Turnpike’s chief engineer. “All of us who’ve been part of these discussions certainly recognize the significant value of this project in enhancing the movement of people and goods in the region, so we’re pleased to be getting back to the drawing board.”

The stretch of Turnpike between Valley Forge and Downingtown is the busiest four-lane section of the east-west mainline, used by more than 50,000 motorists daily. When the Turnpike suspended engineering of the Milepost 320-326 project, it also shelved plans to construct a $65 million “E-ZPass Only”

Interchange linking Route 29 with I-76 in Chester County because it would have boosted traffic on the unimproved, four-lane highway resulting in increased deterioration in the pavement, level of service and safety. That Route 29 project, however, is not advancing yet.

“There are noise issues that must be resolved on the Milepost 320-326 project before we can begin construction on the all-electronic Interchange at Route 29,” Kempf said. “But we remain optimistic that we’ll soon announce the restart of that project as well.”

The Milepost 320-326 project – with an estimated construction cost of $200 million – is tentatively scheduled to be built beginning in early 2013 with completion in late 2015. It is part of the Turnpike’s $2 billion total-reconstruction program begun in 1999 under which more than 70 miles of roadway have been reconstructed.

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