|UPDATE (February 25, 2022)|
|The third time was NOT the charm! PennDOT returned Arcadia's 3rd Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) application, which was required before the U-turn option would be permitted at Mill Pond Rd and Buck Rd allowing residents to access the Bypass.PennDOT is seeking responses to additional comments it has, including asking for plans for the area to be dedicated to PennDOT as right-of-way. I am not a traffic engineer, but that is essentially what the township traffic engineer confirmed. Download PennDOT's Response to Arcadia and see the comments for yourself.|
Arcadia at Newtown Holdings, LP, (Arcadia Holdings) has been approved to develop a 60-unit single-family home residential community (known as the “Wynmere-Karr Residential Development”), located on the southwest corner of the intersection of the Newtown Bypass (S.R. 0332) and Buck Road (S.R. 0532) in Newtown Township.
But there are sticking points related to traffic safety concerns. How are future residents of the development going to safely access Buck Road and the Bypass? Will the access to and from the development be safe?
The Controversial U-Turn
As part of a Stipulation and Settlement Agreement between Arcadia Holdings and Newtown Township an Access Evaluation Process (AEP) was performed by McMahon Associates, Inc., the developer's traffic engineers. This study considered four access options, but only one option – a controversial U-turn at Mill Pond Road – was the only option pre-approved by PennDOT. The U-turn is controversial because many residents – and the Township – feel it would be unsafe. [For background, read “Controversy Regarding Proposed Arcadia Newtown U-Turn Option”]
In 2021, Arcadia filed two Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) applications to PennDOT to approve the U-turn option. On October 29, 2021, PennDOT returned the second application for further revisions. [See PennDOT’s Response Letter]
Arcadia recently filed a third HOP application in response to comments from PennDOT and Newtown Township. Below, I present selected comments and responses from McMahon Associates. Perhaps the third time’s the charm!
Comments Submitted By the Newtown Planning Commission
PennDOT required written evidence, prior to the issuance of a permit, that Newtown Township has had the opportunity to comment on the developer’s HOP plans. As I pointed out to PennDOT via email on November 24, 2021, the Newtown Township Planning Commission (NTPC) did not have an opportunity to comment specifically on neither the first nor the second the HOP application as required by PennDOT (see insert below).
|My Email to PennDOT|
|Dear Mr. Hanney [PennDOT's Philadelphia Region Traffic Services Senior Manager Francis Hanney]:
Re: Arcadia’s Highway Occupancy Application #148702
PennDOT’s October 29, 2021, Response Letter says: “The Department requires written evidence, prior to the issuance of a permit, that Newtown Township is aware of the project and has had the opportunity to comment. Provide written evidence (e.g. municipal engineering review, council or planning commission meeting minutes, executed TE-160, etc.), which is less than one year old, to satisfy this requirement.”
On November 15, 2021, Arcadia submitted a response to PennDOT in which it said: “A copy of the latest Township review letter is included with this submission. Additionally, the email address for the Township Manager (Micah Lewis) has been added in EPS as Additional Email Address 2.” This was offered by Arcadia as evidence that the Twp has reviewed the application.
The letter Arcadia is referring to is from RVE dated May 25, 2021, which is months BEFORE Arcadia submitted its HOP plan. Also, that letter does NOT mention “Highway”, “HOP”, “PennDOT”, “Traffic”, or “U-turn.” Therefore, in my opinion this letter does NOT satisfy PennDOT’s request.
In any case, PennDOT should be aware that the Newtown BOS at last night's public meeting directed the Newtown Planning Commission to review the Arcadia HOP application with the hope that comments from the PC would be submitted to PennDOT to consider.
PennDOT agreed with me: “The letter submitted in the second application cycle pre-dates the current HOP plans,” said PennDOT in response to Arcadia’s second HOP application. “In addition, comments from the Newtown Planning Commission's review of the HOP application must also be submitted for the Department's consideration.”
Consequently, the NTPC reviewed the 2nd HOP application at its January 4, 2022, public meeting. The NTPC subsequently provided the BOS with its comments (see insert below). These comments and others from the Township Engineer were submitted to PennDOT as part of the third HOP application.
|These comments were submitted to the BOS on January 12, 2022.
Arcadia Land Holdings Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) Application Review:
This meeting was to review the highway occupancy permit in a public setting by the Planning Commission to satisfy PennDOT requirements as evidence of community awareness of the HOP. We began, for the benefit of our newly appointed members, by reviewing briefly the history of this property and the settlement plan now in place.
Eric Carlson, Arcadia VP, reviewed the four options for access to the site:
Mr. Carlson said that PennDOT rejected all but the U-turn as having severe safety concerns including weaving and merging concerns. Mr. Carlson and our traffic engineer Derrick Kennedy reviewed planned roadway improvements and traffic lights and signage to control the intersection to improve safety for the U-turn. Included in the improvements are medians and a “pork chop” at the entrance to permit right out, only. There would be an option to turn left from Buck Road to enter. The plan also proposes improved striping and changes to the traffic signals to allow U-turns only when timed and the addition of a second right turn lane at the Bypass to move traffic through the Buck Road/Bypass intersection. As per the settlement agreement, construction traffic would be prohibited on Mill Pond Road, as would through truck traffic after completion of construction. Only passenger vehicles would be permitted to make the U-turn.
The Planning Commission members had a great many concerns about safety in all directions, especially at peak AM and PM hours when traffic tends to back up in all directions. The addition of sixty new homes will add to an already congested situation. The members did not look favorably on this plan. There are concerns that drivers may become impatient if there are delays and fail to wait for the signal for a U-turn. Because the entrance to the site is so close to the Bypass, Commission members also had concerns about cars attempting a left turn into the site and cars exiting the site as traffic proceeds from the Bypass to Buck Road at higher speeds.
PennDOT had indicated favoring a new access through open space directly to Mill Pond Road but this has already been prohibited by the settlement agreement. Two residents were in attendance and expressed concerns about safety. They also expressed concern that the agreement to not create an access directly to Mill Pond road might somehow be renegotiated.
What Vehicles Are Allowed to Make the U-Turn?
The township engineer commented that the “design vehicle” for the U-turn movement on southbound Buck Road at Mill Pond Road is shown as an SUV (see figure below). The engineer requested a larger design vehicle be used to evaluate the U-turn. “The applicant should identify available right of way on the northeast corner of the intersection and quantify the impact associated with a larger single unit truck.” That is, would a truck have enough room to make the U-turn?
The response from McMahon Associates: “The proposed design is consistent with Settlement Agreement and the selected alternative from the access evaluation process with PennDOT and the Township, which includes accommodating a passenger vehicle U-turn movement at Mill Pond Road. The intersection has been designed to accommodate a full-size SUV U-turn movement as shown on the HOP plans. The U-turn movement was never intended to accommodate single unit trucks. The movement is proposed to be signed ‘Trucks’ and ‘No U-Turn’ accordingly.” [See “Responses to Twp HOP Review 2022-01-27”]
In other words, according to the developer, trucks are not allowed to make the U-turn. The only option they have would be to make a right on Mill Pond Road, drive through to Newtown-Richboro Rd, and make another right turn there and proceed to the Bypass. The only problem is that according to the Settlement Agreement referred to by McMahon Associates, through truck traffic is PROHIBITED on Mill Pond Road. This was a major issue for residents and I’m sure when all this is completed, residents will be complaining about through truck traffic on Mill Pond Road. And guess what? It will be very difficult for the township to enforce the No Through Truck Traffic plan.
Safe Access To and From the Site
Newtown Planning Commission members also had concerns about cars attempting a left turn into the site and cars exiting the site as traffic proceeds from the Bypass to Buck Road at higher speeds.
The Newtown Engineer also had concerns: “Further clarification of the operational characteristics of this movement are requested. Is this intended to be a legal movement, or emergency access only? As a double left turn lane design, there are operational concerns with allowing left turns into the service road at this location.”
The response from McMahon Associates: The proposed design is consistent with Settlement Agreement and the selected alternative from the access evaluation process with PennDOT and the Township, which includes accommodating a legal left-turn ingress movement from Buck Road into the proposed site access. [See “Responses to Cycle 8 Comments 2022-01-27”]
Posted on 01 Feb 2022, 01:34 - Category: Development