Traffic takes center stage at Crebilly hearing

It was all about traffic and road conditions during the Feb. 23 session of the Toll Bros./Crebilly Farm conditional use hearing in Westtown Township. There was also a little side trip to find Supervisors' Chairman Carol De Wolf, who was absent from the hearing's first hour. It was announced later that she had forgotten about the session.

Toll wants to build a development with 317 new homes on the 320-plus acre farm. Crebilly is situated with Route 202 to the east, Route 926 to the south, S. New Street to the west, and W. Pleasant Grove Road to the north.

Center stage for Tuesday evening’s hearing was engineer Al Federico, Westtown Township’s traffic consultant who said a number of the roads shown on the conditional use plans have poor sightlines at intersections. One of those intersections is where the collector road meets Route 926. The collector road runs north and south through the planned development from W. Pleasant Grove Road to 926.

A traffic engineer wants a full roundabout at the intersection of W. Pleasant Grove Road and the collector road, but acknowledges that would encroach on an environmentally sensitive area.

“The sight distance at the collector road and 926, as presented [on the conditional use plan, was less than the applicable standards,” Federico said under questioning from Kristin Camp, Westtown’s Planning Commission solicitor.

Federico added that Toll submitted an exhibit about what could be done to improve the sightlines but, to his knowledge Toll had not yet revised the conditional use plan to show grading changes that would improve the sightlines.

Camp also brought up the intersection of the collector road with its intersection at W. Pleasant Grove Road. In an October 2019 letter, Federico said the sight distance looking left on W. Pleasant Grove from the proposed collector road was 440 feet, which is the minimum distance permitted by township code, but that didn’t take into consideration any possible widening of W. Pleasant Grove. He recommends a full roundabout at that intersection.

Again, Federico said Toll has submitted exhibits of what could be done to regrade that intersection, but he had not seen any revision to the conditional use plan reflecting that.

Camp followed up with a series of questions about other roads that are currently only designated by letter — Road K, Road M, etc. — that run through the proposed development. Several of them, Federico said, have sight line problems because of what he called vertical and horizontal curves.

Using “Road F” as an example — from Toll’s road profile exhibit — Federico said that road is “like a rollercoaster” as it goes up and down. He said there is a dip in the road that “is not designed to meet the sight distance requirements for a local road.” He added that the road also has that dip in the middle of a horizontal curve where it meets a pedestrian trail. “That would be considered an undesirable combination of alignments.”

There is a similar sharp dip along Road G where it intersects with Road F, he said. There’s a similar situation where Roads L and K intersect.

“It’s not clear that this would provide adequate sight distance for vehicles exiting from Road L onto Road K because of a vertical crest,” he said.

Federico’s direct testimony continued in the same vein regarding sight distances along the internal roads. However, he did say that he has not seen the alternate road profiles in the alternate plan that might have addressed these issues but assumes there have been some changes to the proposed grading. One positive comment from Federico was that the alternative plan has removed some of the sharp horizontal curves.

Questioning moved to the need for traffic calming devices — such as speed humps and small roundabouts — and then to the conditions at the collector road near the exit-only driveway at Westminster Presbyterian Church near W. Pleasant Grove Road.

Federico said churchgoers who exit through that rear parking area and want to use the collector road would have to make a U-turn to do so. He said a direct connection from that exit to the road is preferable.

He said there also needs to be better pedestrian access from the development toward the intersection of Routes 926 and 202 so residents could walk more safely to and from the area of the CVS.

“Access should be provided to that intersection to tie into the pedestrian improvements that are planned as part of PennDOT improvement projects, Federico said.

At the end of her questioning, Camp asked Federico whether Toll has met its burden to show that peak traffic generated by the development would be accommodated in a safe and efficient manner.

“Not based on the submitted conditional use plan. No,” Federico answered. However, he added that the alternate plan is an improvement, “but there’s not been sufficient information provided to demonstrate compliance.”

Attorney Gregg Adelman then cross-examined Federico for close to an hour. He began by asking the engineer about his testimony on sight distances and how the conditional use plan hadn’t been revised but that subsequent exhibits had addressing those issues had been provided.

Federico acknowledged reviewing those exhibits, but said he was satisfied with some of the exhibits.

“The exhibit for 926 did show that it was feasible to modify the road profile to provide adequate sight distance,” Federico said. “The exhibits for the W. Pleasant Grove Road intersection were a little more challenging…There seem to be deficiencies where the new curves would be.” He added that it wasn’t clear that all the grading could be done on the Toll’s property.

On further questioning, Federico did say sight distances could be improved with grading on the property or the right of way but added that he couldn’t comment whether those improvements could be achieved without making changes on the north side of W. Pleasant Grove Road “based on the materials submitted.”

However, when asked whether all of W. Pleasant Grove Road would need to be regraded, Federico said no. Some areas would likely need it be regraded or reprofiled but couldn’t give a firm opinion based on what he’s seen so far.

Federico told Adelman that he had reviewed the additional exhibits but couldn’t recall whether he wrote a review letter on them. When pressed whether there was anything in writing to which Toll could respond, Federico said he couldn’t recall.

He also acknowledged that detailed road profiles are not required during the conditional use phase of the application but that excessive grading may impact other areas of the development that supervisors should be made aware of at this stage.

When asked whether he provided written comments on the internal road profile design — the internal roads mentioned during direct testimony — Federico said he didn't believe so.

He was also unclear when he first saw the road profiles but said under questioning that his Feb. 23 testimony was the first time he had given his opinion on the profiles to Toll.

Adelman addressed Federico’s direct testimony concerns regarding the sharp vertical and horizontal curves and asked whether those concerns are normally addressed in land development rather than conditional use proceedings. Federico said yes.

There were also questions about whether some of Federico’s recommendations might pose some environmental concerns. One of those recommendations was for a full roundabout at the intersection of W. Pleasant Grove Road and the collector road. Federico said doing that would encroach into a riparian buffer.

He also acknowledged that his recommendation to connect two of the internal roads, L and N, would also encroach on environmentally sensitive areas. The plans currently show them unconnected, with each ending in cul de sacs. Federico said he was looking at those roads from a strictly connectivity standpoint, not considering the environmental aspect.

Adelman and Federico later engaged in some verbal sparring over whether the collector road was in fact a form of by-pass so motorists could travel north and south between 926 and W. Pleasant Grove Road and other properties further north — such as along Stetson School Boulevard — on the west side of Route 202 so that they could avoid using 202.

Adelman asked whether the road was a by-pass to alleviate congestion at the 202/926 intersection.

“No,” Federico said, but agreed that the collector road would help eliminate congestion by giving drivers a chance to avoid that intersection. “It could be used as a by-pass, yes,” he added when asked again.

Under further questioning, Federico acknowledged that his proposed roundabout at the intersection of W. Pleasant Grove Road and the collector would slow traffic to the point where the by-pass feature would not be as advantageous in reducing traffic at the intersection.

However, he said, “If traffic calming devices are designed for the appropriate speed, then you’re controlling the speed to a reasonable level without unduly influencing travel choices.”

If implemented poorly, Federico added, traffic calming devices could become a concern.

The next hearing is scheduled for March 23 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. No other hearings are scheduled at this time, but township Solicitor Patrick McKenna said more would be announced later. Public comment would begin after all testimony is given.

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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