SANATOGA PA – Money from proposed traffic impact fees to be paid by land developers in Lower Pottsgrove, if approved, might cover the costs of fixing future problems at selected congestion spots. The township will be on its own, however, to solve jams that already occur too frequently at four identified intersections.
And at one of those, the corner of Porter Road and East High Street on the township’s west side, engineers and administrators alike agree they don’t yet know how to address thorny issues being created by drivers there.
The Board of Commissioners listed patiently Thursday (Nov. 5, 2015) as Sanatoga-based Bursich Associates’ engineers described 15 township intersections they reviewed in a “Roadway Sufficiency Analysis.” Much like a report card, it gave a letter grade – from A to F – on how well traffic flows now through those corners and how they could be affected by development projects during the next 10 years.
The analysis is part of an 18-month process undertaken by a board-appointed committee, re-designated during October 2014, to help commissioners decide whether imposing impact fees is worthwhile. The seven-member committee is chaired by well-known real estate broker Greg Herb, and is due to issue its conclusions before next April.
Board members later Thursday unanimously approved the report, and moved impact fee considerations ahead.
Committee members determined “D” to be a passing grade for existing traffic flow, as measured by the amount of time drivers currently wait to get though. Besides the intersection of Porter and High, three others failed to make the cut: Pleasant View Road at East High, Rupert Road at East High, and Medical Drive at Armand Hammer Boulevard.
The good news for some corners, Bursich representative Chad Camburn said, was that simply changing traffic control timing may meet the need. Giving one set of drivers a longer green light than others, for example, could go a long way to relieving jams, he said.
That’s not the case, he added, at Porter and High. The bulk of congestion there is caused by motorists driving north on Porter, who attempt to turn left and travel west on High into Pottstown.
- The intersection does not meet Pennsylvania Department of Transportation requirements for a traffic light, Camburn explained. “That option’s out,” he said, because High is a state-owned road.
- A second solution would be to make left turns at the intersection illegal. Commissioners criticized the suggestion as nearly impossible for police to consistently enforce.
- Forcing traffic that leaves Porter into a right-only (eastbound) turn onto High, possibly by installing a slightly raised median and directional signage, is a third choice. Commissioners didn’t like that either, saying it would impede truck traffic serving industries located on Sanatoga Station Road, which connects to Porter. It might also limit an “escape route” for first-responder vehicles in an emergency, they said.
Looking ahead during the next 10 years, engineers named the intersections of Heritage Drive at East High, Rupert at East High, and the U.S. 422 ramps at Evergreen Road as future trouble spots. Impact fees could be collected from developers to pay for fixes to that short and, as they apply to 422, potentially expensive list.
- The Heritage intersection may also be an easy fix with timing controls, Camburn suggested.
- At Rupert, the left-turn lane for southbound traffic intending to move east on Ridge Pike into Limerick probably would need to be extended further north on Rupert. Reconstruction, and more traffic timing, should solve future congestion there, Camburn added.
- As for 422, he conceded, the real fix would be a PennDOT reconfiguration of entrance and exit ramps at the Sanatoga interchange. Lower Pottsgrove and Limerick are working together to obtain grant money to first fix approaches for westbound 422, costing millions of dollars that would be paid in part by both townships.
If anything pushes impact fees to approval, officials generally agree, it’s the 422 component. PennDOT has declared it will limit all future development in either township that affects Sanatoga interchange traffic until reconfiguration plans are well under way.
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Nov. 5 meeting):