Friday, July 18, 2014

The Long and Winding Road

It’s rare that the closure of a road in our community is cause for celebration, but for the LP Board of Supervisors last evening, deciding what to do about a public road promised long ago yet still unbuilt was an opportunity to make a significant positive traffic impact for LP.

former proposed throughpoint from Egypt to Park Ave
At issue was whether to allow local developer Audubon Land Development (ALD)  and its principal, John Neilson, out of an obligation incurred 16 years ago to complete Shannondell Boulevard through to Park Avenue, part of the plan when ALD pursued approval for the development of the Shannondell retirement community, in exchange for road improvements elsewhere in the Township, or whether to hold them to the letter of the 1998 conditional use decision.

ALD’s commitment to open a public road (an extension of the existing Shannondell Boulevard) stretching from Egypt Road to Park Avenue was secured by a former Board of Supervisors and sought at a time in our history when we had significant congestion issues in Audubon, particularly along Egypt Road. At the time, the intersection at Egypt/Park Avenue/Pawlings Road was rated by PennDOT as an “F” – their worst rating. This was partly because the point where US Route 422 meets Trooper Road had never been designed as a full cloverleaf, so traffic seeking to head westbound from our area was forced to thread through Audubon on Egypt Road to reach 422 there. The Shannondell road extension was required and approved as a means to help alleviate this traffic.

paper street back to the Meadows @ Shannondell from Park
Also back in 1998 new businesses and homes were still being built at a steady clip, dumping more and more traffic on local roads less and less able to keep up. In addition, we are a gateway community through which pass-through traffic generated by other communities along the 422 corridor, also experiencing growth in population and business, fed into LP. The 1998 agreement was structured so that when Shannondell reached 1000 new units (and presumably added a definably increased level of traffic onto Egypt) it would trigger the completion and dedication of the road to divert cars to Park Avenue.

Since Shannondell never reached that threshold (although they are close), they were never required to complete and open the public road. And, in the intervening years, conditions changed sufficiently so that the cut-through from Egypt to Park Avenue was arguably no longer needed. In 2006 improvements to the Egypt Road/Park Avenue/Pawlings Road intersection approved in 2005 (by the BOS I was a member of) were installed, improving that intersection from an “F” rating to a “D”. Today, long-planned work is underway to complete the 422/Trooper Road cloverleaf, which will make it easier for employees of the corporate center to access 422 without traversing Egypt Road, and the Arcola Road bridge – while having a temporary impact on the Audubon area – will be rebuilt and reopened within the next couple of years.

Thus, having made their case that circumstances have substantially changed (and arguably improved and will continue to do so) since the 1998 conditional use decision they received, ALD secured the Board of Supervisors’ approval last night to amend it (with conditions) to exchange that project for improvements at the dangerous intersection of Crawford Road, Eagleville Road and Park Avenue (see articles, here (TAP) and here and here (Times Herald).

The unaligned Crawford Road intersection is currently rated ‘E”, although arguably it’s worse, according to the Township’s traffic engineer, Casey Moore of McMahon Associates. Improving and aligning Crawford Road is a safety priority and in the public’s best interests. Traffic stacks there significantly in all directions and is especially dangerous at rush hours. It has an extensive accident history, and I personally know of friends and family whose cars have been clobbered there over the years.

The stub road at Shannondell will still be finished up to Park Avenue, but will not have public access. Only emergency vehicles and public works will be able to access it.

S. Park heading north, 7-14-14 @ 5:25 pm
I believe it’s very forward thinking on the part of our BOS to think in terms of getting something we really want and need in exchange for a project that is no longer necessary, and I applaud their creativity, flexibility and courage in taking on what could have been a politically hot issue.

paper street from Park to Egypt
When I ran for BOS in 2011, because I was the only candidate to go on record as opposing opening the road to the public,  I received overwhelming support from the residents of Shannondell who were vehemently opposed to what they termed ‘an expressway’ being opened in their community, citing safety concerns. Some Audubon residents, and former supervisor Rick Brown, were, at the time, more interested in holding a developer accountable for an agreement they entered into years ago than in what was in the overall best interest of the Township as a whole. I’m glad that this has turned out to be a win/win for all stakeholders and is no longer a political football.

Now, if we could only get the intersection of Pinetown/Sunnyside/Eagleville Road improved….

photo credit: Times Herald