John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

10 January 2022 Meet Mack Monday Meeting Summary

The following is a summary of the discussions at the January 10, Meet Mack Monday Zoom meeting. At least six (6) Newtown Township residents attended this meeting.

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N Sycamore St Driver and Pedestrian Safety

On December 22, 2021, at approximately 11:04 pm, a male was struck and killed while attempting to cross N. Sycamore Street at Silo Dr. in Newtown.

This was the second recent serious pedestrian accident in that location. At the November 10, 2021, Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Police Chief Hearn gave some details regarding an October 22, 2021, serious accident involving a pedestrian.

Recent Significant Pedestrian Incidents reported by police (does not include car-only incidents):

  • 12-22-21 Sycamore Street & Silo Dr, Auto/Ped (In Crosswalk) - Fatal
  • 12-16-21 Durham & Sycamore Street Auto/Ped (In Crosswalk) - minor injuries
  • 10-22-21 Sycamore & Jefferson, Auto/Ped (Mid-block) – critical injuries
  • 09-21-20 Sycamore & Jefferson, Auto/Ped (In Crosswalk) – minor injuries
  • 05-04-19 Sycamore & Jefferson, Auto/Ped (Mid-block) - Fatal

See my notes from this meeting for a history of discussions regarding pedestrian safety on N Sycamore St from 2019 tthrough December 27, 2021, when  started my “Improve Pedestrian Safety on N Sycamore St” petition on Change.org. Over 850 people from around the world – and at least 570 from the Newtown area – have signed that petition. Nearly 50 people added comments explaining why they signed the petition and made recommendations for improving pedestrian safety.

Some Recommendations

  1. Reduction of speed to 25 mph from Durham Road to the Bypass.
  2. Lower the speed limit on 532 (Washington Crossing Road) north of the borough (up to Linton Hill Rd) from 45 to 35 mph. This would require PennDOT approval.
  3. Purchase 15-25 Yield to Pedestrian (mid-road placement) along Sycamore Street ($7500-$12,500) at several locations. As mentioned above, the Chief was successful in obtaining $7,500 from the Green Parrot to buy these signs.
  4. Change lighting along Sycamore Street to a more-brighter “white” lights. This was suggested by several residents. The township should consider upgrading ALL street lights to LED in order to improve safety AND save energy costs.
  5. Installation of a four-way stop sign at Silo and Sycamore Street, or install a traffic signal at Sycamore & Silo.
  6. Increase the visibility of crosswalks (read "Crosswalk Visibility Study")
Convert the brick transverse crosswalks on Sycamore to continental markings
as shown in this figure. This type of crosswalk marking can result in up to
8 seconds of increased awareness of the crossing for a 30-mph operating speed.
  1. Install pedestrian crosswalk electronic signage at each crosswalk.
  2. Install pedestrian signs along this block of Sycamore to only cross at the crosswalks
  3. Install flashing crosswalk lights at Silo Drive like the one on South Sycamore near Chandler Hall [See #13 for an alternative idea.]
  4. Township could prohibit parking for several parking spots in front of Green Parrot and Sycamore Grill side, and other area businesses to enhance line of sight.
  5. Recommend to Silo Street Owner to allow inbound traffic only from Sycamore Street.
  6. If this is not feasible, can install or suggest to install, if permitted “right turn only” out of Silo Drive and place signage.
  7. Install speed-limiting bumpers on the ground on Sycamore between Jefferson and Durham roads.
  8. Install TS60-RRFB LED Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs. RRFBs are used to supplement warning signs at uncontrolled intersections or mid-block crosswalks. One company's RRFBs feature flashing, high-intensity LEDs that alert motorists that pedestrians are using the crosswalk. Studies have shown that RRFBs significantly increase driver yielding behavior and are approved by FHWA. RRFBs are placed on both sides of a crosswalk below a pedestrian crossing sign and above an arrow sign that points at the crossing (see image below). Pedestrians can manually activate RRFBs with a push-button or passively with photo-sensor bollards.
Shown with RRFB, pedestrian crossing sign,
crosswalk arrow sign, and push-button station.

Arcadia's U-Turn Plan

Arcadia’s Highway Occupancy Application #148702; U-Turn on Buck Road (SR 532) and Mill Pond Road. PennDOT required “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.” 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.”

At the November 23, 2021, BOS meeting, I noted that this letter does NOT satisfy PennDOT’s request and the HOP plan should be discussed in a public meeting. I suggested that the Planning Commission (PC) would be a good venue for this. The BOS agreed and directed the PC to review the Arcadia HOP application with the hope that comments from the PC would be submitted to PennDOT to consider.

Here’s the Planning Commission's report to the BOS….

"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: 

  • Direct exit access from the Bypass 
  • Signalization of the entrance to the site at Buck Road 
  • Signalization and “don’t block the box” striping at the entrance 
  • U-turn at Mill Pond Road 

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. 

(c) 2022. This site is paid for and approved by John Mack: john@johnmacknewtown.info
The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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