School board teams with township on road

As anticipated, Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board directors voted to join with East Marlborough Township on a contract to improve pedestrian safety along Route 82. The Sept. 18 vote was unanimous.

The initial contract is for $180,000 split between the township and the school district. If the Longwood Foundation joins, the three parties will put up $60,000 each.

While the total cost of the project is $1 million, grants could pay for the rest of the work. District Business Manager Bob Cochran said during last week's work session that the district would not know whether the grants are approved until 2018. If approved, work would begin in 2020.

The proposed project includes eliminating right-hand turn lanes on southbound Route 82 in front of CF Patton Middle school and Unionville High School, shortening the pedestrian crossing distance, installing pedestrian refuge islands and 1,200 linear feet of sidewalks up to the traffic roundabout north of the two schools.

Randy Waltermyer, of TPD, Transportation Planning and Design, explained the project before Monday night's vote. He said while East Marlborough Township has petitioned PennDOT to lower the speed limit along Route 82 from 45 mph to 35, the transportation department has declined. He said the project could cause PennDOT to reconsider.

The current two crossing areas — one each at the high school and middle school — are 62 feet wide crossing five traffic lanes, two through lanes, a center left turn lane and two right turn lanes.

That 62-foot crossing distance is too long, Waltermyer said, adding that the idea is to expose pedestrians and students to the road in "as narrow a width as possible."

Removing that southbound right turn lane would shorten the crossing distance to 49 feet. Refuge islands are proposed near the two entrances to Manor Drive, adding another level of safety.

While the project does not directly call for a reduction in the speed limit — though the township would petition PennDOT again after completion — the work would create a visual impact on motorists having a subconscious effect.

He explained that regardless of the posted speed lint, a driver sees a wide road with no vertical obstructions and thinks it's safe to drive faster. Narrowing the road — by eliminating southbound right turns — and installing a rapid flashing beacon on an overhead mast arm would cause drivers to slow down automatically.

According to Waltermyer, studies show rapid flashing beacons reduce crashes and near-crashes by 40 to 70 percent.

In addition to the beacons, crosswalks, sidewalks, and islands Waltermyer said there would be brick textured paving on the road at the approaches to the area. That, too, would cause drivers to think to slow down.

Should the project go forward, and follow-up traffic counts show the speed limit should be dropped, it would take about additional three months for that to happen, he said.

Other business

Pennsbury Township residents are asking the board to re-evaluate a school bus stop on Parkersville Road at Ravens Lane. Three residents spoke during the public comment period saying the stop is on a blind curve in the road and they fear for the safety of students getting off buses at that location. The board said the district would look into the matter.

 

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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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