Newtown Township

Board of Supervisors Work Session

Minutes of April 16, 2012

Members Present: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer Ryan Gallagher and members Philip Calabro and Robert Ciervo.

Also Present: Interim TownshipManager/Police Chief Henry Pasqualini and Interim Public Works Director Ronald Weaver.

Call to Order: Chairman Gallagher called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.

Sycamore Street Speed Limit: Township Traffic Committee Chairman Timothy Swedo was in attendance to discuss the speed limit on Sycamore Street. He said that the Traffic Committee had discussed the speed on the length of the street from the Bypass to Durham Road; this portion of road had not been surveyed since 2005 when the Sycamore Street improvement project was completed and on-street parking was installed. The current speed limit is 35 MPH for the entire length of the street.

The Committee has observed that there are a number of locations along with street with heavy pedestrian and motorist activity, particularly during morning and evening rush hours and on weekends. He particularly mentioned Chandler Hall, Chandler fields, the First National Bank parking lot/St. Andrew’s Church, all below Centre Avenue/Richboro Road, where the road is wider but there is a great deal of pedestrian activity. Above Centre Avenue to Durham Road, the road narrows and there is heavier use of the on-street parking. At Washington Avenue there is a school crossing.

The Committee is recommending that speed limits be stepped down on Washington Crossing Road, where the speed limit is 45 MPH. If the speed were reduced above Cliveden Drive to 35 MPH, then reduced again at the traffic light, so that the speed limit in the business district portion of Sycamore Street is 25 MPH, this will promote safety. Coming from the Bypass, a similar step down should be in place, reducing the speed limit first to 30 MPH and then to 25 MPH near Centre Avenue/Richboro Road.

Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Police Chief had conducted some informal speed testing at the Acme site over a 44 hour period from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. His testing found that the average speed was about 25 MPH.

Mr. Swedo said that he suspected that the lower speeds recorded were because the tests were done near a traffic light.

Chief Pasqualini said that the 85 th percentile was 32 MPH.

Dr. Ciervo said that cars coming from Jefferson Street onto Sycamore making a left turn are probably traveling about 10 MPH, making the average artificially low.

The Board discussed current conditions and was open to examining this further in order to promote pedestrian and motorist safety.

Resident Shawn Ward, representing the Sycamore Street Community Association, said that the business community is opposed to reducing the speed limit. Traffic was adequately reviewed and studied as part of the Sycamore Street improvement. The businesses do not want to slow traffic down because drivers will avoid Sycamore Street, driving around rather than through town. There may be an enforcement issue is vehicles are speeding, but generally, traffic moves at a reasonable pace. There had been money escrowed for a traffic light at Silo Drive if warranted. Perhaps this should be revisited with recent, accurate data. Mr. Ward did not object to stepping down the speed for vehicles approaching Sycamore Street from Washington Crossing Road.

Regarding the Chief’s survey, Mr. Ward asked to see a breakdown of the directions traveled.

Resident Vincent Lombardi suggested that the Township take other measures before reducing the speed limit to 25 MPH. He would rather see traffic moving through town than slowed down, creating back-ups. He agreed with Mr. Ward that drivers would avoid the business district is traffic became congested and slow. He suggested eliminating the right on red at the Durham Road intersection. This would create a gap in traffic for vehicles making left turns and for pedestrians trying to cross.

Mr. M. Gallagher said that he would speak to the traffic engineer about reducing the speed approaching Sycamore Street from Washington Crossing Road.

Public Works Director Weaver suggested that the speed limit could be reduced to 35 MPH on Washington Crossing Road near Cliveden Drive to help slow traffic as it enters the shopping district. He was supportive of eliminating the right on red at Durham. He reminded the Board that Washington Crossing, Durham and Sycamore Street are all state roads and any changes would have to be approved by PennDOT. Mr. Weaver also pointed out that pedestrians only have the right of way at signalized crosswalks; they do not have a right of way until they enter the crosswalk in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Swedo said that perhaps eliminating a left turn from Silo onto Sycamore Street would also help to improve safety. Almost all cars make a right out of Silo but a car trying to go straight or make a left can back up traffic for a long way.

Mr. Ward disagreed with this, noting that sometimes drivers are looking for parking and this is the only way to get to the on-street spaces or those in the parking lot on the other side of the street.

After some further discussion the Board agreed to ask the Traffic Engineer to investigate incremental reduction in speed from 45 to 35 MPH on Washington Crossing Road and eliminating the right on red at Durham.

Mr. Swedo said that these two changes should bring some improved level of service to Sycamore Street.

Resident Judith Norkin said that she was concerned about pedestrian safety and thanked the Board for taking these initial steps to help improve traffic and safety in the business district.

Financial Planning Road Analysis: Warren Dallas of the Financial Planning Committee gave an overview of the Committee’s review of road conditions, repairs and repair budgets in order to forecast annual funding to maintain the roads. The Committee met with former public works director Gary Crossland and public works employee Dave Hibbs to discuss maintenance of the Township’s over 80 miles of road. Each year the public works department attempts to do some work, including crack sealing and pothole repair, while outside contractors do milling and resurfacing. The roads are divided into categories of arterial, secondary and local (culs-de-sac), each of which has a different life expectancy.

The Township funds road maintenance with the liquid fuels tax and highway turnback funding. In addition to the construction and maintenance, these funds also are used for capital purchases, engineering costs and operating supplies and equipment.

Township highway aid has been about $400,000 each year. Using this number the Committee looked at costs for maintenance on 20, 25 and 30 year terms and found that the revenue does not keep pace with the costs. The plan needs to be updated; road resurfacing requires revenue above that provided by state funds. In addition, many roads which were built in the 1980’s and 1990’s during the housing boom are nearing the end of their useful life. The Township might also need more public works labor and materials to extend the life of the roads.

Dr. Ciervo agreed, noting that large developments like Newtown Grant, with many miles of roads, are approaching 25 years old.

Mr. R. Gallagher asked Mr. Weaver if he had any opinion about the ongoing $50,000 budget line for equipment.

Mr. Weaver said that right now all of the trucks are in good order but the Department might need a new small truck in a few years. He also noted that because the winter had not been harsh, he had been able to keep up with potholes. The bids for paving also came in lower than anticipated this year.

Mr. M. Gallagher asked whether there might be an opportunity for sharing of heavy equipment among the neighboring municipalities if a consortium were formed for borrowing/lending. This might save some money.

Mr. Weaver said that this could be investigated as could some outsourcing, but he did note that although most of the year one dump truck is all the Township needs, during bad weather, both trucks are needed and surrounding municipalities have the same demands on their equipment.

Ms. Fountain said that in the charts prepared by the Financial Planning Committee, some road expenses were not included such as curbing and inlets.

Mr. Calabro noted that the Township does not have sufficient state revenue to keep up with road maintenance and asked whether there might be any grants available to help.

Mr. Dallas said that he has not seen any grant opportunities for routine maintenance of roads.

Mr. Calabro asked whether there have been any serious, recurring pothole problems.

Mr. Weaver said that he has been able to keep up because the winter was mild. If next winter has a lot of thawing and refreezing, he is not sure the Township staffing levels are adequate to keep up.

Mr. R. Gallagher thanked Mr. Dallas and the Financial Planning Committee for their work in preparing the report, calling the Supervisors attention to the long term planning that is needed to keep up with road maintenance.

Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the Board had met in executive session prior to the meeting and would remain for an additional executive session.

The meeting adjourned at 9:15 PM.

 

Respectfully Submitted:
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary

 

Attest:

Henry Pasqualini, Interim Township Manager


Mike Gallagher, Chairman

Matthew Benchener, Vice-Chairman

Ryan W. Gallagher, Esq., Secretary/Treasurer

Philip Calabro, Member

Robert Ciervo, Member