Town­ship mulling scal­ing down project

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Sokil dsokil@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Dan­sokil on Twit­ter

TOWAMENCIN >> An­other grant op­por­tu­nity is in the works for fix­ing a bot­tle­neck on Forty Foot Road, and the town­ship may need to look at scal­ing down the project for now.

“The town­ship got part of one grant for the widen­ing, and that is for where it nar­rows to three lanes, to, as you ap­proach Al­len­town Road, where it goes up to five lanes again,” said traf­fic en­gi­neer Joe DeSan­tis of en­gi­neer­ing firm McMa­hon As­so­ci­ates.

“The one grant ap­pli­ca­tion was awarded back in 2017, and ex­pires in 2020, and we ac­tu­ally got an email just to­day from DCED ask­ing us ‘What are you go­ing to do?’” he said.

Over the past sev­eral years Towamencin has dis­cussed how to cor­rect a bot­tle­neck on Forty Foot Road, where the road­way nar­rows from five lanes to three south of Tom­lin­son Road and north of Mor­gan­dale Drive. Two grant ap­pli­ca­tions were sub­mit­ted, one in 2016 to Pen­nDOT and one in 2017 to the state Depart­ment of Com­mu­nity and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, and DeSan­tis told the board on Oct. 10 that it’s the lat­ter that is start­ing to see the cal­en­dar run short.

“They want to get all of their grants wrapped up, for last year, by the end of this year. So it’s re­ally im­por­tant to start mov­ing ahead,” DeSan­tis said.

Staff and the en­gi­neer­ing firm have es­ti­mated a to­tal price of $2.65 mil­lion to widen the road­way from three lanes to five lanes for the en­tire stretch, ac­cord­ing to DeSan­tis and su­per­vi­sors Chair­man Chuck Wil­son. De­vel­oper PSDC has pledged roughly $800,000 to be used as the town­ship’s match to­ward the grant funds as part of their plans to re­vive the nearby Towamencin Vil­lage Shop­ping Cen­ter, but the

town­ship does not yet have that money in hand.

Towamencin has been awarded the $825,000 from DCED but was turned down on a re­quest for $1.02 mil­lion from the Pen­nDOT mul­ti­modal grant fund. A new round of the Pen­nDOT pro­gram is now ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, and DeSan­tis sug­gested the board re­sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion but start to plan for a smaller project, just in case.

The al­ter­na­tive plan would, in­stead of adding two new south­bound lanes to Forty Foot south of Tom­lin­son Road, only add one new lane in a first phase.

“The widen­ing would be com­pleted in such a way that this whole area could be re­con­fig­ured at a later date, to give the two lanes all the way through,” DeSan­tis said.

“If the town­ship could get that match posted (from PSDC), then we could move ahead and start the en­gi­neer­ing for this seg­ment,” he said.

With the first grant and the match­ing funds se­cure, the town­ship could then be­gin ac­quir­ing rights-ofway and re­lo­cat­ing util­i­ties in the area to be widened. Do­ing so would start to use the DCED grant money for which the clock is tick­ing

to­wards a dead­line of Oct. 1, 2020, while still await­ing word on the sec­ond Pen­nDOT grant.

“We’d be into the project, and we won’t lose the first grant. We’d also rec­om­mend to sub­mit for the sec­ond grant,” DeSan­tis said, which would likely be an­nounced in spring 2019.

“Around that time, we could prob­a­bly go to per­mits

for this (four-lane project), but we could hold up on start­ing any con­struc­tion un­til we hear if we get the sec­ond grant,” he said.

If the sec­ond grant is awarded, the plans could be mod­i­fied to add the fifth lane with­out a sig­nif­i­cant de­lay to the time­line for us­ing the first grant.

“We would mod­ify the draw­ings, go­ing back to

the orig­i­nal plan, the five­lane plan, so that we don’t miss a beat, we don’t miss the grant, and we get ev­ery­thing done,” DeSan­tis said.

Wil­son said he thought sub­mit­ting for the next round of grant fund­ing was “kind of an easy de­ci­sion,” but more dif­fi­cult would be se­cur­ing the $800,000 from PSDC while their plans for the shop­ping cen­ter are still

not yet fi­nal­ized.

“The hard part is if staff can con­vince PSDC to post the match that they’ve com­mit­ted to, even though they’re not get­ting their traf­fic light,” Wil­son said.

Dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the PSDC shop­ping cen­ter project called for a new drive­way en­trance and traf­fic sig­nal to be in­stalled on Forty Foot, with an ac­cess road lead­ing into the new de­vel­op­ment across from the cur­rent New­bury Way. DeSan­tis sug­gested the plans could be mod­i­fied to in­clude a stub to start that drive­way en­trance, with curb cuts to be cov­ered by the grants and the rest to be picked up by the de­vel­oper.

“We know it’s go­ing to be op­po­site New­bury Way. We know where it’s go­ing to be, we know the con­fig­u­ra­tion, so we can ac­tu­ally have that built,” he said.

Start­ing the drive­way could al­low Pen­nDOT to ap­prove per­mits for the drive­way early on, and the de­vel­oper would then only have to se­cure per­mits for the sig­nal, in­stead of for both, later on.

“That would be a big sell­ing point for them. They essen­tially would have their high­way oc­cu­pancy per­mit,” Wil­son said.

“That’s essen­tially what they’re ‘buy­ing’ — they put up the match, they get their drive­way,” DeSan­tis replied.

The board then voted unan­i­mously to au­tho­rize staff to sub­mit a new grant ap­pli­ca­tion, and meet with PSDC about the match­ing funds.

“Let’s get ‘er done,” su­per­vi­sor Laura Smith said.

Towamencin’s su­per­vi­sors next meet at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 at the town­ship ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, 1090 Troxel Road. For more in­for­ma­tion or meet­ing agen­das and ma­te­ri­als visit www.Towamencin.org.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Mo­torists on Forty Foot Road near Mor­gan­dale Drive in Towamencin Town­ship merge as the road­way nar­rows from two travel lanes to one.

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