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