Input needed now for future Route 41 improvements

Atendees at PennDOT's Route 41 meeting on Tuesday look at intersection diagrams placed around the room. --Photo by Chris Barber

Most people agree that Route 41, which runs from the Delaware line to Gap, has safety and congestion problems. The trouble is, there are differing opinions on what the solutions are, and sometimes those differences become quite contentious.

To find some answers and establish priorities about how to improve the often-hazardous road, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation held a public meeting on Tuesday night at Hartefeld National Golf Club in New Garden Township. The event was staffed by a number of PennDOT employees, who were there to bring people up to date on improvement options and to solicit input that will eventually find its way to state and federal legislators.

About 150 people showed up at the club house to look at large intersection diagrams and to listen to project manager Mary Raulerson talk about possible solutions to problem areas sometime due to arrive after 2015.

The program was divided into two parts: The first was a chance for guests to browse around the room and look at maps. The second was to sit and watch Raulerson's Power Point presentation. A later presentation followed the first one.

Raulerson began by saying that the proposals for bypasses around Avondale and Chatham that had been under consideration since the 1990s have been rethought. Now, the department is studying conditions and locations at individual unsafe intersections, trying to come up with changes that will have minimal impact on the environment.

She said that since 1994, Route 41 has become designated as an urbanized rather than a rural highway. Priorities for highways in that category are improved safety, accommodation of traffic load, intersection capacity and infrastructure improvements.

She also said that in studying Route 41, traffic experts found twice as many fatal accidents as other roads in the same category. And most of the fatals occur at intersections. In the last five years there have been 325 crashes, 10 fatal accidents and 12 deaths.

Raulerson went on to describe what have been shown to be the intersections most in need of work and what can be done to improve them.

At the top of her list was the intersection of routes 41 and 926 in Londonderry, closely followed by routes 41 and 841 in Chatham and State Street at Route 41 in Avondale. There were others as well: Route 1, Newark Road, Starr Roar and Limestone Road. Many of the options to improve these intersections would cause problems to a greater or lesser degree.

At Route 926 crossing Route 41 is difficult, she said, but conditions could be improved with a traffic signal of roundabout. However, a proposed signal pole may impact a historic property there.

At Route 841 in Chatham, future trends in traffic could cause major delays in drivers on Route 841. She suggested a signal or roundabout there as well to improve traffic flow at peak hours.

Probably the intersection that presents the most challenges, she said, was Route 41 in Avondale at State Road. Not only are there crashes there, but widening the road to decrease delays would be fraught with all kinds of problems like floodplain, streams, bridge replacement and potential commercial/residential displacements. She said the option is to add through and left-turn lanes in both directions.

During the question-and-answer period, guests discussed the pros and cons of roundabouts and the possibilities of banning trucks, among other things. One person in the audience asked if he had understood right that nothing would be done until at least 2015.

Raulerson said that was indeed true. But, she added, unless priorities are set now or in the near future, the funding for projects that are due to be accomplished in 2015 will not be there for Route 41.

She added that all the input she received, both written and verbal, would be passed on to planners for future consideration.

To contact Raulerson with ideas and suggestions, e-mail c-mraulers@state.pa.us.

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