My wife and I live in Pocopson on the west side of the Brandywine Creek in Chester County. In the last few years there have been some infrastructure projects in our area including: construction of the roundabout on Route 52 by the Pocopson Home and the county prison, construction of the roundabout on Route 82 in Unionville, and a yearlong bridge rebuild by the Brandywine Hardware over the Brandywine on Route 926.
All have created inconveniences and complications to the residents, and each lasted 9 months to 1¼ years. There were generally always ways to work around the construction using side roads and often out of the way back roads.
But, recently there is a major bridge repair on the Lenape Bridge, the small narrow stone bridge on Route. 52 crossing the Brandywine, which was built in 1918. The work will take about nine months, closing Route 52 and East Creek Road along the Brandywine until April or May.
Unlike the other road repairs, there are few alternative routes to get around this bridge closure – forcing most traffic to use Rte. 926 or Pocopson Road, resulting in significant traffic congestion where the two roads intersect at Brandywine Hardware.
The wild card is the train line running along the west side of the Brandywine. It has a switching set of tracks right near the bridge work on Rte. 926. This means the train moves slowly back and forth multiple times across the road, as it changes/realigns the box cars, stopping traffic on Route 926. Considering that there is no other closer way to cross the Brandywine by road (north at least 7-plus miles and south down to Route 1, two-plus miles) it creates a serious traffic jam at times.
For example, on Nov. 5, 2019, my wife was trying to go to a meeting in Spring City. She figured if she left 20 minutes early she would take into account any possible traffic and/or train situations blocking the west side of the Brandywine. So, driving down Pocopson Road she got maybe 6/10 of a mile and had to stop behind a long line of vehicles. And, there she sat for 45 minutes until she gave up, turned around, and came home.
Considering the traffic was already significantly backed up before she arrived on Pocopson Road, we estimate that the traffic was held up a minimum of 55 to 65 minutes, and she was nowhere near the 926 and Pocopson Road intersection. Not surprisingly, the traffic on Route 926 going west to Kennett and east to West Chester was also tremendously backed up for miles.
Part of the problem is that there seems to be no schedule as to when the train crosses Route 926, so people can’t plan ahead and try to either avoid the area or allow lots of extra time. In most cases realigning the cars takes at least 15-20 minutes while traffic is building up, although apparently there is no limit on the time it can take, as the November 5 situation demonstrated.
Another part of the problem is the timing of the lights at Pocopson Road and Route 926. The amount of time allowed for people going north/south on Pocopson Road is very short – allowing maybe 2 to 3 cars – especially if those going north block the intersection so those going south cannot go through or turn left to go across the bridge.
So, here we have a situation: there is a train which has no responsibility to anyone crossing the road and taking as long as it needs to restructure the train on the sidings near the bridge; and there are many people needing to go through the Pocopson Road and Route 926 intersection especially at the times the train generally goes through.
On November 5 it was between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., an extremely high traffic time for this area. Hundreds of people were affected: those needing to go to work (where the excuse of a train blocking the tracks would not impress a boss); truckers (there were at least 3 big ones) and delivery persons on a schedule; parents needing to pick up kids at school; and just people who were needing to get somewhere, like my wife.
So, as you can imagine, this is a very difficult situation -- not like previous ones where construction has been just an inconvenience. I wrote a comment to the local paper which was responded to by local township personnel indicating nothing could really be done due to the status of railroad. Is this really the case?
Could the train company let people know when it is going to shut down the roads for anything more than say 10 minutes or so? This could be done by 2 electric signs?
One on the east side where Creek Road goes south off of Route 926, and the other by the veterinarian on the west side. Could a person (police or other) be assigned to the intersection to direct traffic to make it easier to navigate? Maybe there is another siding where the train cars can be redistributed. Could the train schedule be changed for the next 8 months to a less trafficked time (i.e. at night) and not during major rush hours.
And finally, could the timing of the light at Route. 926 and Pocopson Road be adjusted so more cars from Pocopson Road can go through on any signal change. Adding a left turn arrow that would go on a minute or so before the solid green would allow people going south on Pocopson Rd. to turn east across the bridge so they would not be blocked by people going straight north on Pocopson Road.
Considering that this situation is going to continue through the winter this is not going to get better - only worse.