ROUTE 29 SLIP RAMPS
Chester County, Pennsylvania
CITIZENS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
DATE: November 9, 1999
TIME: 7:00 P.M.
LOCATION: Desmond Great Valley Hotel
Citizens Advisory Committee:
- Melissa Carta - Charlestown Elementary School PTO
- Mike Claus - Concerned Residents of East Whiteland
- Kim Colket - Schuylkill Township
- Michael Costello - SMS
- Judy DiFillippo - Tredyffrin Twp Board of Supervisors
- Bill Fulton - Chester County Planning Commission
- Maynard Honesty - East Whiteland/Tredyffrin Jnt Trans. Auth.
- Lee Ledbetter - Schuylkill Township Board of Supervisors
- John Martin - Charlestown Twp & Zoning Board
- Joseph Maxwell - Great Valley Association
- Donald Meldrum - Great Valley School Board
- Peter Quinn - Greater Valley Forge TMA
- Maryann Severance - Great Valley Reg. Chamber of Commerce
- Gary Smith - Chester County Industrial Dev Authority
- Pete Wilson - Sanofi Pharmaceuticals
Project Study Team:
- Sue Staas - Charlestown Planning Commission
- Thomas Warren - Johnson & Johnson/Centocor, Inc
CAC Facilitation Team
- Jeff Davis - PA Turnpike Commission
- Walt Green - PA Turnpike Commission
- Christina Hampton - PA Turnpike Commission
- Jay Roth - KCI Technologies, Inc
- James Toth - STV Incorporated
- Joan Kober - Key Management Strategies, Inc
- Seth Lieberman - Key Management Strategies, Inc
INTRODUCTIONS AND PROTOCOL
- Scott Brady - Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC)
Seth Lieberman of Key Management Strategies opened the meeting and welcomed everyone. He pointed out that the first several rows of seats were reserved for CAC Committee members and alternates. Other attendees were to be observers only.
Seth reviewed the following agenda items for tonight's meeting:
He pointed out that the agenda is a very aggressive one as agenda items came from requests made at last month's meeting. Seth will try to strike a balance between sticking to the agenda and allowing ample time for questions. Consequently, some agenda items may need to be postponed.
- Welcome and introductions
- Review of ground rules and approach
- Comments on minutes and ratification
- "Special visitors"
- DVRPC report on traffic modeling
- Report on PennDOT 12-year plan
- Report on Schuylkill Metro
- Identification of pros and cons of four (4) identified alternatives - three (3) proposed slip ramp alternatives plus no-build alternative
- Discussion of future meeting topics
- Next meeting date
Seth promised to take an active role in managing questions at tonight's meeting. He also commented on the flyers placed on windshields of cars parked outside last month's CAC meeting. He stated that this was not in the spirit of what we're after - open dialogue. Seth gained agreement that placing flyers on windshields would be discouraged at future CAC meetings.
Seth encouraged the group to use the meeting minutes to communicate back to their home organizations. The commitment of distributing the minutes in 10 days was not met last month. Seth felt that a more realistic goal was distributing the minutes in 14 business days. No one had any objections to revising the commitment.
Since there was a lot of technical jargon used at the last meeting, Seth proposed the adoption of a technical jargon rule. Committee members were encouraged to raise their hands when they didn't understand a term. The term will then be defined and added to a glossary of terms (to be included with meeting minutes).
Seth asked if all CAC members received copies of the minutes from October's meeting. One member did not receive the minutes - Joan Kober will check to see if she has correct address information.
Seth asked everyone in attendance to introduce themselves to the group.
COMMENTS ON MEETING MINUTES AND APPROVAL
Seth asked if there were any corrections to the minutes. One committee member asked that an addition be made to page 6, paragraph 2 (paragraph beginning: Each alternative impacts one historic building, etc). The addition should read, "Storm water management and noise impact have not been addressed." A project study team member pointed out that storm water management will be addressed in the future.
The same committee member pointed out that the term "induced trafficä was used at the last meeting, but not mentioned in the minutes. She felt that this term should be included in the glossary. Scott Brady of DVRPC defined induced traffic as the traffic created as a result of growth (e.g., building of new developments, office complexes and enhancing accessibility). In relation to the area being studied for the Route 29 slip ramps, increasing the density of development would induce more traffic.
Seth called for any additional corrections or additions. Since there were no more comments, the minutes were approved with changes mentioned above.
INTRODUCTION OF SPECIAL VISITOR
The Charlestown Board of Supervisors hired a court stenographer to prepare a verbatim record of the meeting. Seth asked the committee if the presence of the stenographer would impede the open dialogue we are promoting at CAC meetings. A lengthy discussion followed in which these key points were made by committee members:
- The intent of the Charlestown Supervisors was to simply obtain complete information on CAC meeting activity since there will be considerable turnover on the Board in January - the vote at the last Supervisors' meeting was 2-1 in favor of having a stenographer present.
- Although minutes are a good summary, all our memories are faulty - a verbatim record captures everything.
- If what comes out of this group is binding, we should vote on the stenographer. If it's not binding (which it is not), what is the difference?
- If this is open dialogue, what does it matter that committee activity is recorded in legal stenographic notes
- If one set of official meeting minutes is already being compiled by Key Management Strategies, we really don't need another set.
- Since CAC members will not be getting copies of the transcript, it could be inaccurate. A Charlestown representative on the CAC offered the sale of the transcripts to other members for a cost of $15.
- Other CAC's have not had court stenographers present so what's the point - it's simply hindering the free flow of ideas
- Puts the onus on committee members - opens them up to lawsuits
- The stenographer is totally inappropriate - there seems to be a purpose in this rather than keeping an active record of the meeting
- People from the entire project team should be able to speak freely -- this won't be possible as they'll be worried about everything they say. Another committee member pointed out that since the meeting is an open discussion format, the stenographer won't know who is speaking
- Charlestown supervisors should have confidence in CAC committee members getting back to them with appropriate information
- The presence of the stenographer implies that there are plans for a lawsuit and thus a wet blanket effect is created.
Many committee members felt that the CAC should have input on the stenographer issue prior to the next meeting.
Seth explained that he did get a call in advance from a committee member to tell him about the court stenographer so it was not a surprise. A project study team member suggested that the Charlestown Township representatives take committee objections back to the Supervisors and ask if minutes would provide a satisfactory record.
Seth warned that the presence of a stenographer would likely diminish the level of frankness and dialogue at meetings. Seth suggested taking a quick vote to get an idea of where the group as a whole stands on the stenographer issue. Nine (9) members voted that they would rather not have the stenographer. Three (3) voted to keep the stenographer and four (4) were either on the fence or didn't care.
The Charlestown representatives agreed to terminate use of the stenographer for the remainder of the meeting and discuss the issue with the Charlestown Supervisors. They were unsure about what the next steps would be.
Seth introduced Scott Brady of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning (DVRPC) Commission.
The Turnpike has presented forecasts for usage of slip ramps and forecasts for road usage around the slip ramp area. Questions have been asked about where those numbers come from. Scott explained that his goal is to outline the modeling process. He will offer an explanation of the modeling system in general and a description of corridor or sub-area studies (e.g., the Route 29 study).
DVRPC is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Greater Philadelphia area. It encompasses nine (9) counties - five (5) in Pennsylvania and four (4) in New Jersey. MPO's were established by the Federal government in the 1960's to guarantee that planning in a region was continuous and coordinated between different plans and cooperative between different counties, entities and departments of transportation. Due to Federal guidelines, any transportation project in this region that receives Federal funding must go through the DVRPC Board. As a result, DVRPC has the only traffic model used for Federal or non-Federal projects in the nine county region. The Board consists of the member counties, state Departments of Transportation and transit providers in the region.
DVRPC is involved in many different kinds of planning including air quality analysis, land use and water quality planning. In the Philadelphia area, 80% of DVRPC's focus is on transportation. Scott distributed copies of his presentation slides to all participants at the end of the meeting. He also promised to be available for questions.
The traffic simulation process used by DVRPC is ratified by the Federal Highway Administration ( a division of the US Department of Transportation). It is a traditional four step process because it involves four major sub-models of trip generation, trip distribution, modal split and trip assignment.
Trip generation model
- Trips are associated with people - they want to go from one place to another.
- DVRPC knows from Institute of Traffic Engineers case studies how many trips are generated by people and how many employees are located in different types of office buildings.
- Determine trips made by households and employees in each Traffic Analysis Zone (TAZ) using census data
between home and work
between home and non-work locations
trips that are neither from nor to home
- Determine trips between the zones of the region and areas outside the region as well as trips through the region
- Estimate truck and taxi trips
Trip distribution model
- Trip distribution models determine the number of person trips between any two given zones
- Basically, a Newtonian gravity model format - the propensity to make a trip between any origin and any destination is directly proportional to the attractiveness of the destination measured by population and employment and inversely proportional to the difficulty in getting from one origin to one destination. For example, Center City Philadelphia with 262,000 employees has a very large mass and attracts many trips. East Whiteland or Tredyffrin Township, each of which has a large mass of employees, also attracts many trips. On the other hand, Charlestown Township with only about 1,200 employees is not attracting as many trips.
- The result is a table which includes the number of trips from each TAZ in the region to every other TAZ in the region and outside the region (this table contains about 2.3 million entries)
Modal split model
- Determines how all the trips will be made
- Looks at propensity to use transit (automobiles, bus/trolley, regional rail and subway/elevated) based on cars per household, income, surveys
- The percent of travel assigned to each mode depends upon the relative time and cost associated with each available mode, trip purpose and vehicle ownership
- Compares transit runs to similar runs on a highway network -splits out amount that will take transit and reserves the rest for assignment to the highway
Trip assignment model
The transit assignment model is similar to the highway assignment model. It generates line volumes, station boardings and develops differences in comparative use between highway and transit offerings.
- Determines the path or route drivers take along the highway network to reach their destination
- Model is based on highway travel time and cost
- Travel times between origin and destination are recalculated based on congestion levels
- Trips are diverted to other facilities as travel time increases with congestion
- Iterative process (15 repetitions) constrained by highway capacity
Basic data used in simulation models are population, occupied housing units (with 0,1,2, 3+ vehicles), employed residents, employment in each of eleven (11) Standard Industrial Classification groups, density of development, transportation network (what is out there already - highways and public transportation). In the Delaware Valley Region our traffic analysis zones have basically followed the census tract system, because if data is coming in by census tract, there should be a 1 to 1 correspondence between census tracts and traffic analysis zones. In total the regional model includes 1,510 traffic analysis zones. The regional highway network coded into the model comprises about 44,000 one way links. It includes every facility in the region classified above the level of local road as well as many local roads. The public transportation number includes all regional rail, subway and bus service patterns.
For the slip ramp projects the calibrated 1990 highway model was used. A screen line is often used to verify calibration of a model. To run a screen line a pneumatic tube is placed across the roadway to conduct a traffic count. Then the model is run through all the sub-models and DVRPC comes up with a number to evaluate how close the model is to the actual traffic count.
If totals over all screen lines done in the area are taken, the variation between the model forecasts and actual counts is 5%. Modeling is not an exact science. If DVRPC can get within 10%, they feel they are doing a good job.
When beginning a corridor or sub-area study (such as slip ramps), the same process is followed, but everything in the area is enhanced. As an aside, Scott stated that DVRPC is neither for or against slip ramps. DVRPC is merely a consultant seeking to use the best available technology and knowledge to produce the best possible forecast. The modeling group has made great strides in accuracy in recent years.
When conducting a corridor study:
- The study area is divided into smaller traffic zones
- Missing facilities are added to the highway or transit network
- Demographic information is split to the finer zones
- Specific development locations are added
- Traffic counts are conducted on study area facilities
- Calibration factors are developed using counts and a base run of the model using the current year
Using the Route 29 slip ramps as an example of a sub-area study, DVRPC divided the study area traffic analysis zones into smaller units to provide a finer "grainä to the network. DVRPC also divided the surrounding area into sub-zones. They generate employment numbers in each sub-zone using aerial photos to measure parking as an indicator of employment. They work with counties to come up with an update on future population/employment numbers. They look at the present situation and develop future forecasts in concert with the counties. The counties should verify numbers with townships and boroughs so everyone agrees on those numbers.
Often the long range population and employment forecasts do not adequately address recent development activity. In order to prepare a surcharge of these developments, DVRPC will ask for a list of all proposals for residential and commercial developments that local government has received during the last few years. DVRPC then assesses whether these development projects were anticipated in the development of the future population and employment numbers or whether trips need to be added (surcharged) in the trip generation model. When DVRPC reviewed Charlestown and Tredyffrin figures, they felt that the existing numbers were accurate due to a recent update of the long range forecast.
After putting together the enhanced traffic network, DVRPC uses pneumatic tubes to do traffic counts for main line facilities. These counts are performed at selected locations on each roadway. They are also performed by employees at important intersections. Counts are done at each approach to the intersection to identify turning patterns. Also, the percentage of heavy truck traffic is evaluated. After this data is collected, the model is run for the base year. Then the model results are compared to the actual count. If there is a discrepancy, DVRPC will adjust the load locations and review other factors to better replicate reality. When a sufficient correspondence between traffic counts and base simulation is achieved, the model is declared calibrated. A calibration factor is determined (based on the difference between forecasted and actual numbers) to adjust future raw model output.
When the assignment is run for the future year, the network needs to be representative of what's out there. The long range plan, which includes PennDOTÎs 12 year plan, and the short term plan (TIP), which includes the first four years of the PennDOT12 year plan, is used. DVRPC is now embarking on a year 2025 long range plan. Long range planning takes into account a lot of the existing transit plans.
A committee member asked whether there were other organizations that create a model like the one used by DVRPC. Scott stated that DVRPC creates the model used in this area as they are the major repository for traffic data. Other organizations can conduct traffic studies, but they use the DVRPC model and data. DVRPC is always monitoring these studies to make sure that the model and data are being used accurately.
Another committee member asked if he could submit questions to Scott in the interest of saving time. These questions and answers will be included in future minutes and/or addressed at future CAC meetings
PennDOT 12 Year Plan
Walt Green outlined the projects included in the first 4 years of PennDOT's 12 year plan. (PennDOT has only committed to the projects in these first 4 years). There are not a lot of projects planned for the local area. The projects currently listed on the plan are:
PA 352: Chester Road and Boot Road
PA 352: Chester Road at Paoli Pike
- Restoration and Realignment
- Letting in 2000
PA 29: Phoenixville Pike at Charlestown Road
- Intersection improvements
- To begin design shortly
- Construction in 2001
Phoenixville Pike Bridge (Icedam)
- Intersection improvements
- Designed by Township
- Letting in summer 2000
- Construction beginning in fall 2000
US 202 - PA 30 to Morehall Road
- Bridge replacement over Pickering Creek
- Letting in late spring 2000
- Construction in summer 2000
US 202 Section 300
- Resurface roadway
- Construction in summer 2000
PA 113: Kimberton Road at PA 401
- Roadway improvement
- Categorical exclusion level 4
- Approved October 1999
- Currently advertised for design
Phoenixville Closed Loop System: PA 23, PA 113 and PA 29
- Safety improvement and channelization
- Letting in late 2000
- Construction in spring 2001
Paoli Transportation Center - Septa
- In discussion by local governments
PA 113: Gay Street Bridge
- Traffic and circulation components of the Center
- Completing analysis
- Construction after 2002
- Starting consultant selection
A committee member asked if State Transportation Committee feedback has been incorporated into this plan. Another member responded that the feedback is not on the existing plan, but would be added to a future plan. Once projects are approved by PennDOT, they go on DVRPC's Transportation Improvement Program. The backlog is horrendous. The committee member explained that the State Transportation Committee record is still open until December so townships can work through PennDOT until then.
- Traffic signals at PA 401 and Valley Hill Road
- Traffic signals at PA 401 and Newcomen Road
- No applications pending at PennDOT 6-0 for these improvements
Another member asked how the impact of traffic from slip ramps (if they are approved) gets filtered into the PennDOT process so that other road improvements are made. A project study team member used Fort Washington as an example. TheTurnpike Commission worked with PennDOT to make improvements needed at the slip ramp terminus at Virginia Drive. The committee member asked about improvements 2-3 miles out. The project study team member felt that PennDOT didn't take this into consideration.
Another project study team member answered that there was a great deal of reliance on traffic models which indicated that most of the improvements or enhancements would be needed nearest the slip ramps. There would be less need for improvements as you moved further away from the ramps.
A traffic study team member added that if slip ramps aren't built at Route 29 in Great Valley, the same traffic will be there. A committee member questioned the sense of building a proposed two lane bridge if it would be obsolete when slip ramps came. A project study team member answered that you need to move ahead with construction as slip ramps are still under consideration. A committee member mentioned that there is another option on the bridge. PennDOT can be asked not to act on building the bridge. If this option is taken, the project could be pushed back for a long period of time since the backlog is so great.
Schuylkill Valley Metro
Walt Green reported on the Schuylkill Valley Metro project. The project, a 62 mile rail facility from Center City to Reading, is being sponsored jointly by SEPTA and Berks Area Reading Transportation Authority (BARTA).
- The project started with a feasibility study (potential ridership and routes) using bus travel, conventional rail, diesel or electric rail combined in various combinations.
- Then a major investment study was conducted to look at various modes of transportation - it was felt that public transit was the best option.
- Also, looking into a cross county connector -- crossing Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties.
- At present time the draft environmental impact study is underway to be completed in March, 2000.
- Design will start on one preferred alternative. Design will begin in spring of 2000 and continue to late spring of 2003.
- Construction can begin in January, 2002 to continue until the end of 2006. All stations are still under discussion.
- One member mentioned that a station is needed in Schuylkill Township. SEPTA knew that Norfolk Southern owned the tracks and wouldn't let them use them - SEPTA believes that there is a way around this.
Greater Valley Forge Congestion Mitigation Program
A committee member discussed the congestion mitigation program sponsored by the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association (GVFTMA) to alleviate problems associated with Route 202 construction. These solutions were developed during the last 2 1/2 years in anticipation of problems that would be caused by construction. See handouts distributed to committee members for details on offered transportation alternatives.
The committee member also suggested several web sites that provide very good traffic related information: US202.com; phillytraffic.com and GVFTMA.com.
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS
Seth thanked all presenters for the wealth of information provided. He hopes this distribution of valuable information will continue throughout the CAC process. Seth suggested that the important discussion of pros and cons of the various slip ramp alternatives be rescheduled for a future meeting as tonight's time is running short.
A committee member felt that consideration should be given to a fifth slip ramp alternative in the Route 29 corridor - one that addresses traffic approaching the area to and from the west.
Another member pointed out that there are questions of fact that haven't been addressed. It will be difficult to intelligently discuss pros and cons if all basic data hasn't been provided.
A project study team member reported that people want to know how many cars drive from Valley Forge to Great Valley every day. He is working on getting this data, but it will take some time.
A committee member stated that there are facts about environmental impact needed. A project study team member will try to get this information.
A committee member suggested that the CAC define criteria to assess the merits of various alternatives.
Seth proposed that we use the next meeting to get more facts. Everyone has been given handouts in response to requests made at last meeting.
A project team member gave a brief summary of the information presented on the handouts that were distributed to committee members.
A committee member asked about Federal funding for slip ramps and other Turnpike Commission projects. A project study team member explained that the Turnpike Commission does not receive Federal funding for any projects including slip ramps.
- One set featured diagrams of the three proposed alternatives for slip ramps. Other alternatives will be discussed at future meetings.
- Another set offered traffic data linked to each alternative - including the no build alternative - this is the same data as that presented at public meetings held earlier this year
FUTURE MEETING TOPICS:
- Discuss pros and cons of slip ramp alternatives
- Define factors of quality
- Get information on proposed Trammell Crow development at Warner quarry - Seth suggested that we invite them to present this information even though they will likely decline
- Discuss slip ramp alternative with east bound on and west bound off
- Have a qualified traffic engineer explain why widening Route 29 and the underpass under the turnpike bridge won't improve the traffic situation
- Discuss interactions of DVRPC, PennDOT and the Turnpike - who does what ? A flow chart presentation would be helpful.
REQUESTS FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
- Resolve the court stenographer issue before the next meeting
- Find out whether Wyeth and Knickerbocker land development plans are included in the model
- When the CAC process is completed, who will be listening?
- Where does the project documentation go and what is the decision making process and timeline?
- Who are the major players?
- Need to know criteria for evaluating options so that good feedback is being given
- Obtain data on volume of traffic from Valley Forge to Great Valley
- Obtain data on environmental impact of the various alternatives
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
LET: Put a project out for bid
INDUCED TRAFFIC: Traffic created as a result of growth (e.g., building of new developments, office complexes and enhancing accessibility).
Reminder: If you are unable to attend a meeting, please ensure that your alternate can attend in your place.
Date: Wednesday, January 26, 1999
Time: 7:00 P.M.
Location: TBD (Later set at the Desmond Hotel, Rt. 29)
Minutes prepared by:
Return to Charlestown Township Web Site's Slip Ramp Opposition Center.