Talks begin on Chadds Ford loop road plan

A preliminary plan is now on the table for the fourth and final leg of the loop road around the intersection of Routes 1 and 202. While Chadds Ford Township and PennDOT have been in favor of such a segment since the late 1970s, some residents aren’t happy with the idea.

That section of road would take traffic along Hillman Drive and past Evergreen Drive — the only access point for residents at the Estates of Chadds Ford — as well as bringing the extension of Hillman Drive close to one of the buildings at Painters Crossing Condominiums.

What’s different about the current plan is that it’s been brought by The Henderson Group, owner of the Chadds Ford Business Campus where the road will pass, and that Henderson is willing to pay for the project without any expense to taxpayers.

Henderson filed the plan on Sept. 23, and the Chadds Ford Planning Commission began hearing the application on Oct. 14. No decision was made, nor will there be any decision until the applicant revises and resubmits the plan, according to Ross Weiss, the attorney representing Henderson in the matter. That could take several more months.

Round one of the talks began with Supervisors Frank Murphy and Samantha Reiner, and supervisor candidate Noelle Barbone in the audience.

Hillman Drive as it is now from Route 202, in red. The yellow shows the planned extension to Route 1.

Hillman Drive as it is now from Route 202, in red. The yellow shows the planned extension to Route 1.

Weiss explained that the Hillman Drive extension would complete the entire loop road concept that PennDOT has wanted for more than 30 years. State Farm Drive and Brandywine Drive have been open for years and the Wegmans project has brought with it the construction of the third leg, Applied Bank Boulevard. The idea behind the loop is to allow motorists to turn onto and off of Routes 1 and 202 while avoiding the intersection itself.

However, Planning Commission Chairman Craig Huffman and engineer Mike Schneider said they’re concerned that there would be too much traffic using the Hillman Drive extension, which would be the southwest segment of the loop.

Schneider said southbound Route 202 traffic sometimes backs up from Route 1 all the way to Dilworthtown Road. He’s concerned that drivers wanting to avoid that level of congestion would turn onto Brandywine Drive at Painters Crossing shopping center, cross Route 1 to the Hillman Drive extension, then work their way to 202, which would add more than just local traffic to the road.

Huffman also said the other legs of the loop don’t have any residential component, while Hillman Drive does.

Even traffic engineer Matt Hammond, speaking on behalf of Henderson, acknowledged there could be very heavy traffic eastbound on the extension, from Route 1 to Route 202. He said that during peak afternoon hours, from 4 to 6 p.m., traffic could be 25 cars deep, from Route 202 almost to Dickinson Drive. He said there needs to be a way to improve that traffic flow, preferably by installing a right turn lane at Hillman onto 202. However, that could prove difficult because there’s little room for such a lane because of the Goddard School at that corner.

Throughout the meeting, discussion touched on both traffic-calming devices to slow traffic and road-widening ideas to help speed traffic flow.

When Weiss told Huffman he felt as if his client was getting conflicting signals, Huffman said, yes, that’s exactly what was happening because no single, clear-cut idea has been established.

Ideas discussed included a three-way stop sign at the intersection of Hillman and Evergreen drives to allow residents from the Estates at Chadds Ford to have an easier way to get out of their development.

Reiner questioned whether the road could be designed to prevent tractor-trailers from using it. She said there would likely be more tractor-trailers in the area making deliveries to Wegmans. Hammond said there’s no way to design a road that way.

“I don’t how you can build a road and design it such to prevent tractor-trailers,” Hammond said. “If you’re going to build a road and the road is wide enough to accommodate vehicular traffic, it’s wide enough to accommodate tractor-trailers. The only way to prohibit or to make it less attractive is to post signage.”

Schneider added that the road must accommodate emergency vehicles.

“If [a road] can accommodate a fire truck, a tractor-trailer will be able to get through,” Schneider said.

Properties involved in the plan.

Properties involved in the plan.

Reiner questioned whether there was any current access to Route 1 from some of Henderson’s properties and how long ago members of the township might have known about earlier plans regarding the loop.

At one point, Mark Eisenhardt, a senior vice president for leasing and land development at Henderson, added some points.

He told Reiner there is currently no access to Route 1 from the as-yet undeveloped Henderson properties on the south side of the road without using the existing driveway at the condominiums for one of the properties. Other properties have no access unless the road is widened and easements granted.

Eisenhardt added that all of the earlier designs were incorporated into the current plan and that Henderson paid for the township engineer when the original plans were drawn.

Henderson also paid for the easement at the condominium driveway, he said, and that the condominium association wanted that easement.

The driveway is the secondary access point for the condo residents. The primary access is on Route 1, but making left turns are dangerous because there’s no traffic signal. There is no way to access the driveway from Hillman Drive, only from Dickinson Drive at Route 1.

Condominium residents coming home from points south on Route 202 currently must either wait to make a left at the main intersection of 1 and 202, or turn onto Hillman and get to Route 1 from Dickinson Drive. However, there is no traffic light there and making a left is awkward at best. The condo association wants that back entrance, Eisenhardt said.

“What [the plan] will allow them to do, and what they want, and we’ve met with the [condo] board. They want this connection. They want this to be safe,” he said.

“We’ve taken the township engineer’s design and placed that on our plans so that they can go out to U.S. 1, which they’ve been able to do, but now they get to go out to 202, which is what they’ve always wanted,” Eisenhardt said. “There’s been a lot of engineering and a lot of money spent to coordinate this.”

He added that having only one access point for the Estates at Chadds Ford went against Henderson’s wishes.

“We did not welcome this through our office park. It was a township demand that easements were granted,” he added.

He also said PennDOT has wanted the loop road since Henderson bought the land in 1979 and that the loop is consistent with the township’s Comprehensive Plan.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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One Response to “Talks begin on Chadds Ford loop road plan”

  1. ksdillon says:

    The residents at Estates at Chadds Ford complained about the traffic that would be increased if a YMCA were built, a Y that would benefit the community. Maybe they shouldn’t have objected so much. How will they like this outcome? And a hotel instead of the Y. What a valuable resource for the community. How do you plan to stop this? Inevitable.

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