Welcome to the County of Berks
RATS Coordinating Committee July 2017 Meeting Minutes
Michael Rebert, PennDOT 5-0, Chair *
Ray Green, PennDOT Central Office
Jessie Seidel for Kevin S. Barnhardt, County of Berks
Donna Reed, City of Reading
James Mason, Berks County Planning Commission
Laura Hopko for Dave Kilmer, SCTA/BARTA

Randall Swan, Reading Regional Airport Authority

Joseph E. Rudderow, III, 2nd Class Townships (Maidencreek Township)

Stephen H. Price, Boroughs (Wernersville)

Tony Sacco, 1st Class Townships (Cumru Township)
*Tie-breaking Vote only


Gene Porochniak, PennDOT Central Office
Kerry Fields, PennDOT 5-0
Shannon Rossman, Berks County Planning Commission
Alan D. Piper, Berks County Planning Commission
Devon Hain, Berks County Planning Commission
Regina Zdradzinski, Berks County Planning Commission
David Berryman, Berks County Planning Commission
John Slifko, City of Reading
Genesis Ortega, Congressman Dent
Matt Boyer, Commuter Services
Felix Colon, AIM
1.         CALL TO ORDER
                 Chairman Rebert called the meeting to order at 1:33 p.m.
      Chairman Rebert asked if there were any questions or comments to the March 16, 2017 Coordinating Committee Meeting minutes.   
MOTION:    Mr. Rudderow made a motion to approve the January 19, 2017 Coordinating Committee Meeting minutes.  Mr. Swan seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
Mr. Swan said that, at the last meeting, we discussed moving the Major Project list up near the top of the agenda.  Ms. Reed agreed.  Mr. Piper stated that the one caveat expressed to Chairman Rebert is that the Major Project list item will not be put above other action items on the agenda.   If people leave, it will be after the action items are done.   Chairman Rebert stated they have the potential to be TIP Amendments/Modifications, SCTA, etc. Mr. Swan was under the impression that we would only talk about the core projects, which would only last about ten minutes-tops.  Chairman Rebert said that if we want to move it up, we can slide #10 up to #8 on the list.  He said that is a step in the right direction. 
           Ms. Fields gave an update on Amendments/Modifications to FFY 2017-2020 Highway TIP from February 23, 2017 through April 27, 2016.
Amendments - There were no Amendments during this period.
Administrative Actions - There were 23 Administrative Actions impacting the Reading TIP.  Two of these added the construction phases for all weather pavement markers and installation of high friction surfaces at various locations throughout Berks County.  A third advanced the construction phase for four bridge rehabilitation projects:  SR 222 over SR 322 (Penn Avenue); SR 724 (Lancaster Avenue) over Wyomissing Creek; SR 2034 (Oley turnpike Road) over Antietam Creek; and, SR 2039 (Neversink Road) over SR 422.  The balance involved reallocating funds within existing projects to account for changing needs.
Ms. Rossman asked how long does a high friction surface last.  Chairman Rebert stated that PennDOT has not run into that problem yet.  It should last longer than a few years.  The first one was done on Rt. 611 in Northampton County.  Ms. Rossman stated that on Rt. 419, the road is getting light in certain spots.  Chairman Rebert asked her to find out what area that is and he will send people out there to check the area.  Mr. Piper asked if this is the area (Rts. 419/183) that will be repaved this year.  Ms. Rossman said no, this is Rt. 419 over the Tulpehocken.  Mr. Piper said he did not know about the separate item for the high-friction surface.  PennDOT does that after they repave.  Ms. Rossman asked if they are going to do that on Rt. 183 after they repave.  Last time they grooved it on the mountain going down the hill. 
Ms. Hopko gave an update on the requested Amendments/Modifications to the FFY 2017 Transit TIP.
1)      Purchase of 5 shared ride vehicles continuing the replacement of the fleet vehicles. 
2)      Facility Upgrades to the Lighting and Security Infrastructure and Development of an HVAC control system at the BARTA Transportation Center, the Park-N-Transit garage and Reading Operations Center.
3)      Replace Bus Shelters at various locations throughout service area.
4)      Transit Development Plan is updated every five years. This funding in in addition to the Planning funds approved under the UPWP.
5)      Telephone System Upgrades in the Reading and Lancaster offices.  This will result in linking the call centers and improve redundancy capabilities to respond to telephone service in either location.  $32,000 is needed for the Reading location.
Administrative Action:
1)      BARTA Preventative Maintenance amount is being decreased at this time to fund the requested Amendments.  This funding will be restored once the full year’s allocation of federal funding is received.
MOTION- Ms. Reed made a motion to approve the five Transit Amendments.  Mr. Green seconded   the motion and it passed unanimously. 
Mr. Piper asked if he needs to submit an ESTIP for this action.  Mr. Green said yes.
           Mr. Piper stated that these two plans have been worked on for the past few months.  Both of these documents were last adopted in March 2014.  Over time, we decided some of the things we did needed to be updated.  This started as a staff review.  Once we reached the Federal Certification Review, additional areas were pointed out where improvements could be made.  Based on this feedback, staff decided to go to a more involved public process in putting together the update to the Public Participation Plan. 
           Two public meetings were held in February 2017.  From these two meetings, there were a number of people who expressed interest in working as a committee to help Mr. Golembiewski update the documents.  One thing the committee did was have a new survey taken to receive feedback both online and on paper.  The survey was on the Planning Commission’s website and was advertised through Survey Monkey and over 150 responses were received.  The feedback showed that some of the things we were doing were not working.  No one sees the legal advertisement; sometimes a block ad was better viewed.  There was a request to be present on social media.  No one viewed the documents at the public libraries. There would be more views if the documents were put online.  Mr. Golembiewski is leaving the survey out there so we continue receiving feedback.  The survey has been translated into Spanish and is able to be read and responded to in Spanish. 
           Mr. Piper stated that, in terms of the Limited English Proficiency Plan, the new Census language data was looked at. There are approximately 22,000 persons in Berks County that speak only Spanish.  The second highest non-English speaking language was Vietnamese, which is under 1,000 persons scattered throughout Berks County.   Staff is not sure if this issue needs to be addressed or how to address it.   There is now languages on our web page and in some of our documents letting the public know that we can make certain documents available in certain alternate languages and that we have interpretation services available, if required. 
           Mr. Piper stated that a motion is needed today to start the federally mandated 45-day public comment period.  We need approval and authorization from this board to advertise that on May 28, 2017.  The documents would be available for public review through Wednesday, July 12, 2017.  During that time period, two more public meetings would be held on June 27, 2017 at BARTA and on June 28, 2017 at the Berks County Agricultural Center. 
           The goal is to come back with the final results of the public comments and have enough time to address those comments for your consideration prior to formal adoption of these two documents at the July meeting.  The Technical Committee recommended that action at their last meeting. 
           Mr. Rudderow asked if the titles in the draft are following something that has been sent down from the federal government.   Mr. Piper said yes.  He asked what Environmental Justice stands for and is it mandated by the federal government.  Mr. Piper said it doesn’t necessarily relate to the environment.  When you do a project, you are not supposed to adversely affect any particular area or concentration of the identified populations.  This includes minorities, elderly and others.   It is taken into consideration with every project we do.  It is a matter of having to document everything.  By developing these plans and policies and then following through we document that we are not being unfair. 
MOTION:  Mr. Swan made a motion to release the draft Public Participation Plan and Limited English Proficiency Plan for public comment.  Ms. Reed seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
         Chairman Rebert gave an update on the Major Projects.    (See Attachment).  
           Mr. Swan asked if the SR 222 Widening Project is for the Berks County portion only.  Chairman Rebert stated yes; below the Kutztown Bypass.  Mr. Swan asked if there is any movement on the Lehigh County side.  Chairman Rebert said we will know more when we get into the 2019 TIP update.  As of now, there is nothing listed on their TIP.   Mr. Piper stated that they have a roundabout construction project listed right over the county line that corresponds with our improvements.  We still need to fill in a project from the Kutztown Bypass to the county line.
           Mr. Rudderow asked if the roundabout at Long Lane will help with the traffic at the end of the bypass. Will the roundabout alleviate that or is there any widening considered.  Chairman Rebert stated, originally, the Department was hoping to incorporate widening the piece in between the intersection and the bypass.  There are historic properties in that area.  The roundabout should help because traffic will continue to flow on SR 222.  Mr. Piper said that the bottom line with that location is it is the same as the others on US 222.  There wasn’t enough time for traffic to clear the light.  This could be accommodated with the roundabout.  It shouldn’t back up through there.  Mr. Rudderow stated that additional signage for people to merge to the right would help.  Chairman Rebert said that additional signage has been put up and PennDOT may consider painting arrows on the road. 
           Mr. Swan asked if the widening of the northern section could be pulled off the table.  Is there enough money to address it?  He stated that he was told years ago that things don’t happen overnight.  It had now been ten years.  We don’t keep moving forward on these projects.  Why aren’t we looking at that?  Why isn’t this on the table?   Chairman Rebert said it will happen and we will get engineering on the program.  The intersection should be fixed and then come back to finish the rest of the widening as a part of the overall project that goes from the end of the bypass to the county line. 
           Mr. Swan asked, regarding the major project list, shouldn’t we be talking about projects under construction.  It would be good to get a brief update on the major projects that are in progress and not just contracts and let dates.  Others ask him when certain projects will be completed.  He tells them he doesn’t know because they are not discussed and not listed in the paperwork. 
MOTION:   Mr. Swan made a motion regarding the major projects status report. Projects that are in progress and in construction should be included and are given the best guess as to when they will be completed.  He thinks that by the next meeting the major projects could be prioritized. Mr. Rudderow seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
           Mr. Piper stated that we are into the update of the next four-year TIP, which would be the FFY 2019-FFY 2022 Program.  It started with the PennDOT on-line webinar and now the General Guidance information has been released. The board members received the full guidance package to read through the process at their leisure. 
            Also, included in the packets is the schedule used for the TIP and will list the steps that need to be taken through the balance of this year and through July 2018 in putting together and adopting an updated TIP, STIP, 12-Year Program and the LRTP.
            Mr. Piper stated that the final draft funding allocations are also included in the packets.  One of the charts (Appendix 1) lists all of the dollars from state and federal sources that come into the program and shows how funds are taken off and set aside for the programs and dollars that are made available to allocate back to the MPO’s.  The charts that are connected to the schedule are ones that show how our allocations are estimated to occur over the four years of the program. 
            Mr. Piper said that a table of the current years of the TIP for FFY 2019-2020 was included for comparison purposes.  If you look at those, the amount is a little less for both of those years.  It will change. The reason for this is that the formulas being used to calculate the allocation in our area are based on population, lane miles used, and vehicle miles traveled, which have been steady in the area.  It is also based on the condition of bridges.  Since we are improving our bridges, our allocation for bridge money starts to ratchet down because we have a lower amount of bad bridges.   It is not that we don’t have less of a need, but that is the way the formula works.  The better the bridges, the less money you receive to address the ones that are left over.   Mr. Swan asked if this is the program that forces us to use a certain amount of our budget to repair our bridges. Mr. Piper said yes. 
            Mr. Piper stated that one of the recurring, big discussions is the fact that the Interstate System in Pennsylvania is the core roadway network and it really needs to be fixed.  In terms of allocation of resources for the interstate network, the state is allocating less money than it would by the formula.  There was no real formula regarding how much money went to the interstate; it was how much money they were going to give.  It has never been enough to match the need.  The Financial Guidance Work Group looked at other ways to apply more money to the interstate system.  Most of the shifting on the interstate side is going to be a result of the reduction of the State Police Fund.  Any additional money would be coming out of the Secretary’s discretionary money and the feedback was not to touch the discretionary money.  The reality of that for this year and next year is the chart that shows where the discretionary money is going.  A majority of it is going to the Interstate Program anyway.  
            Mr. Piper stated the only significant change in this program going forward relates to the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program.  There are 19 MPO’s across the state that will receive a piece of the CMAQ dollars.  Nine of those are in Attainment Maintenance areas which means they were bad but now they are better and get to keep some of the CMAQ money to help keep them at that spot.  At the last Planning Partners Meeting a few weeks ago, the decision was made, and agreed to, that the attainment areas are going to forfeit their CMAQ allocation.  That money will be reallocated back to the areas that are still non-attainment.  The decision was that it is better to address the air quality concerns in the non-attainment areas than to pump money into areas that are okay right now.  Starting in FFY 2021-2022, those nine planning regions will no longer receive the CMAQ money.  It will be reallocated to the remaining ten regions.  Berks County will get approximately $2 million more in the last two years of the program.  The two big non-attainment areas are Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and they will get the balance of the money.  The remaining 8 regions will split whatever money is left over.
            In general, we are looking at flat funding over the next four years.  The gas tax money in Pennsylvania has reached its peak.  The money coming through on the federal side has very slight increases but is not enough to make a difference.  Mr. Swan asked if the gas tax helped us.  Mr. Piper said it helped a lot but we are still behind and are flat now because revenue is not growing. 
            Mr. Rudderow asked if the Turnpike is self-funded through the dollars collected on the Turnpike.  Is there any federal or state money going into the Turnpike?  Chairman Rebert said no.  The Turnpike is self-funded.
            Mr. Mason asked what percentage of the state gas tax went to the State Police Fund.  Chairman Rebert said it is $800 million.  Over the next ten years, it will decrease to $500 million.
           Mr. Piper stated that staff and PennDOT have gone through the first training session.  This is explaining the importance of planning.  The next training session will explain the importance of the engineering process.  The last training session will show how these two can   be combined to improve the overall project selection process. 
           Mr. Piper stated that, as new projects are developed, the process will involve having meetings between the MPO staff, the municipality, and PennDOT’s engineers up front to talk through the proposed scope of work of the project.  They will try to identify any relevant issues that may not have been incorporated in the work and see whether or not there are opportunities to address different issues like bicycle/pedestrian, utilities, schedules of when project might happen, and contracts working around community needs/events.  There were four meetings so far:  in Hamburg Borough, two in the City of Reading, and Maidencreek Township where there is consideration for a potential new project.  There was a meeting regarding the   replacement of the State Street in Hamburg Borough.  The talks for the City of Reading include repaving Chestnut Street and redoing the Centre Avenue Bridge over Norfolk Southern Railroad.  The Maidencreek Township project is the potential to realign the intersection of Maidencreek Road at Rt. 73 to the west of the Rt. 222 intersection.  Right now it is at a very acute, steep angle with bad alignment.  Mr. Rudderow stated that people try to use Maidencreek Road in order to stay off of Rt. 222.  Now with Calcium Bridge Road closed, they cannot navigate that too well.  Mr. Piper stated that there are a lot of businesses and truck traffic back there.  That intersection does pose a problem. 
           Within the next two weeks, there are meetings for two more projects coming up.  One regarding a repaving job on the Warren Street Bypass and the second involving intersection improvements at Rt. 12 and Rt. 73 in Ruscombmanor Township.  The meetings are now being scheduled.  Mr. Piper stated that there are a few more projects moving into the Preliminary Engineering phases now. 
           Mr. Piper stated that the Monday after Memorial Day, he will meet with Chris Kufro, Assistant District Engineer for Design.  They will be going over a list of candidate projects to be considered for the addition on the TIP.  As the projects are identified, meetings will be scheduled to talk through the process with the municipalities for the new TIP and the 12-Year Program. 
           Mr. Rudderow asked if there is a lot of volume in the Rt. 100 Corridor on the eastern part of Berks County.  Can anything be done there regarding the steady flow of traffic?  The issue there is that the intersections need to be looked at.  Washington Township is in the process of putting in a new traffic signal at one of their intersections.  Intersection realignment and treatment need to be looked at.  Some section might need to become roundabouts as well.  Mr. Rudderow asked if the state looks at Rt. 100 as a full corridor.   Mr. Piper stated that the northern end of Rt. 100 is worse.  Once you get north of the light in Hereford Township that takes you into Lehigh County.  Once south of Boyertown Borough, that takes you into Montgomery County.  This not only takes you into a different county, but it is also a different PennDOT District.  Chairman Rebert stated that District 5-0 looks at it within Berks and Lehigh Counties.  They recognize the borders. 
           Mr. Swan expressed frustration at the fragmented way that corridors are addressed as they pass through different planning regions and districts.  We should endeavor to have roads like Rts. 222 and 100 pulled out of the individual groups and be declared “Roadways of Regional Significance” and be addressed similar to the Interstate System.  Wouldn’t this make the job a lot easier?  Chairman Rebert said no.  Mr. Swan asked why?  Mr. Piper said because that would take all of our decisions and leaving them to someone in Harrisburg.  Is this what happens with the Interstates?  Chairman Rebert said no.  He meets with people in Harrisburg and laid out their needs for the Interstate.  He is hopeful that this will bring additional funding for the projects in District 5.  Mr. Swan said that, if you look at the Interstate between Point A and Point B, and say we need to improve the roads between here and here, what considerations do you have as far a crossing a county line.   Is that a big deal like it is with Rts. 222 and 100?  Mr. Rebert said it depends if you run into two planning regions.  It can slow things down depending on where it is and what is the priority.  Mr. Rudderow said we should prioritize these roads.  They should be on the top of everybody’s TIP list in terms of efficiency.  Mr. Swan said we need to go to Lehigh County and say that Rt. 222 needs to be a priority because it is a “Roadway of Regional Significance”.  Chairman Rebert said that Rt. 222 is on their list; but not at the top of their list. 
            Mr. Piper stated that one thing that may come out of this is, with the state moving forward with the freight plan and identifying different corridors, this may help influence some areas and some other highways as more regional.  He said that we need to develop a core network and focus on that.   Mr. Price said that some coordination at a higher level would be helpful.   I-78 in Lehigh County and Northampton County is beautiful.  I-78 in Berks County is horrible.  Mr. Swan said that Rt. 422 dies at the border because many years ago the people in charge decided we didn’t need a limited-access bypass.  There may never be a limited-access bypass.   What would be wrong with PennDOT saying that these are “Roadways of Regional Significance” and you should be, at least, looking at it every time you develop a TIP?  Mr. Price stated that the Rt. 422 Bypass in western Berks County was killed by local government because they didn’t want to lose the car traffic through Wernersville Borough and Robesonia Borough.   Mr. Piper stated that we have a long list of projects, but not a lot of funding.  Bridges must be a priority because if a bridge is closed, your road is closed.  We have had past opportunities to work jointly with our neighbors across borders. 
           Mr. Rudderow asked if it would be helpful if this body would send comments to our neighboring MPO’s saying what we believe it is important in regards to Berks County.  We can identify areas that we have concerns with.  Chairman Rebert stated that Rt. 100 is a very busy route with a lot of truck traffic.  Mr. Swan said he is hearing the same things about Rt. 222 north.  It is not even being considered to be a project on their TIP.   He asked if we can do business the same way and not get this “Roadway of Regional Significance” that we voted on many years ago to be our No. 1 priority?  Chairman Rebert stated that it will not happen by making it a “Roadway of Regional Significance”.  By doing this, Berks County will lose flexibility.  He agrees that the top priority in the Lehigh Valley is Rt. 22.  It is a mess like the West Shore Bypass for a longer section of road.  Rt. 222 needs to get onto their TIP.  PennDOT will continue to work on it.  Mr. Swan suggests that PennDOT should tell Lehigh County that they should strongly address the Rt. 222 project.  They might say no but at least it is being addressed.  
           Chairman Rebert said that someone trying to strong arm the Lehigh Valley could backfire.  Mr. Swan said that if something isn’t designated as a priority, then there is no priority. There needs to be some sort of priority and let people know that.  Mr. Rudderow asked if Chairman Rebert sits on Lehigh Valley’s MPO.  Chairman Rebert said he and Mr. Green both sit on their committees.  Mr. Rudderow said maybe they don’t know what the priorities in Berks County are.  Chairman Rebert said they do know about it.  Mr. Price asked how much the Rt. 22 project will cost. Chairman Rebert said millions of dollars.  They are focused on specific roads.  Maybe they can get funds as we move into the next TIP phase.
           Mr. Swan said that we need to do everything we can do to improve our portion.   Mr. Piper said that at that point, it makes it a priority and then they have a real problem.  If we continue to do our work on the Berks County side, it will continue to put the pressure on the Lehigh Valley to do something on their side. 
                  Mr. Boyer stated that Earth Day was held in April and there were 352 people logging their trips during the month of April.  70,787 miles of their travel were taken off of the roads based on those people who chose an alternative mode during that month. 
                  Mr. Boyer stated that the Susquehanna Regional Transportation Partnership (SRTP) held their 100th meeting yesterday. SRTP is the non-profit organization that contracts Commuter Services.  Mr. Piper was in attendance as a board member.  Berks County joined in 2009 and the original organization formed in 2005.  They have had longevity and success.
                  May is Bike Month.  The Bike to Work Week Ride will be held tomorrow morning starting at 7 a.m.  The Reading Health System is the main sponsor and will provide food and beverages before and after the event. 
                  After the event, Trek Police bicycles will be donated to West Reading Borough, Sinking Spring Borough and Spring Township Police Departments.   Not only are we building team unity, but we are giving back through generosity of Penske Racing Shocks and Reading Health Systems and other organizations.  
                  Mr. Boyer stated that Penn Street traffic looks better than was expected following its transition to the next phase of work.  The joint groups of the County of Berks, Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce, and Commuter Services have been working over the last few years on these projects.  There is a map showing ramp closures, detours and listing the ReadingBridges.com website and also a billboard on Rt. 422 west.   These little pieces of the puzzle hopefully brought attention to the people and helped them travel smarter. 
                  Mr. Piper stated that one of the things done while working with the Department and the Reading Eagle was having full documentation of the Penn Street project in the Reading Eagle in order to help the community understand what is going on.  ReadingBridges also worked with various entertainment venues downtown to encourage them to use social media and e-mail blasts for anyone that is coming into Reading. 
·               Mr. Piper stated that PennDOT is going to start the next round of project solicitations for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).  He stated that, in the past, we piggybacked on the PennDOT application process. We have always had the opportunity to set up our own application process but felt it more advantages to work with PennDOT.     Our recommendation to the board is to continue to use that same process.
MOTION:  Mr. Price made a motion to continue using the same process for soliciting projects for TAP.  Ms. Reed seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
Mr. Piper stated that the program schedule is included in the packets.  We talked about a funding policy and the goal is to bring it back to the board in July. In that way, it will be in place prior to receiving the applications under the new program that will be coming in September 2017.
·               Last week the Governor announced $33 million statewide for the Green Light Go Program, which is an opportunity for municipalities to get help funding traffic signal work. In Berks County, Fleetwood Borough, the City of Reading, St. Lawrence Borough, West Reading Borough and Wyomissing Borough all received some funding. 
·               The Statewide Rapid Bridge Replacement Program has also been discussed previously.  The first of five bridges in Berks County was just a week ago and was completed a month ahead of schedule.  Two other projects are scheduled to go later this year under this program.  They are located in Richmond Township and Ontelaunee Township.  There are two more projects that are located in Cumru Township that will be carried over into next year. 
·               Mr. Piper stated that a lot of time was spent discussing the proposed regulation for Metropolitan Area Coordination and Planning Area Reform.  Effective Friday, May 12, 2017, all of that legislation was repealed at the federal level.  There is no need to worry about being overtaken and overruled by Philadelphia, New Jersey, etc.  We will still communicate with our neighbors regarding plans, projects and programs, as usual.  The forced expanded coordination and possible merging is now off the table. When the legislation went to the House of Representatives, there were only three opposing votes for it to be repealed. 
·               Mr. Swan asked if there have been any concerns regarding the BCIDA’s proposed traffic signal at Rt. 183/ Airport Road.  Chairman Rebert said no.  Mr. Piper said that they were meeting with the airport and PennDOT’s HOP people.  The intersection happens to be right below the end of a runway.  Mr. Swan stated that the good news is that the actual runway is above grade.  Any time you are build any structure near a runway, you must ask the FAA if it exceeds any height requirement.  The good news is the answer is no.  They came back and said, however, this light is located in a runway protection zone.  It is definitely right in the path.  PennDOT said that even though it is proposed to be funded by he BCIDA, they must meet our standards and the HOP will not be looked at unless all of the interested parties are involved and on board with the project.  Discussion on this issue will continue between the BCIDA, PennDOT, FAA, the Airport Authority and Bern Township. 
12.        ADJOURNMENT
MOTION:  Mr. Swan made a motion to adjourn the meeting.  Mr. Price seconded the motion and the meeting was adjourned at 3:04 PM.
 Date:    July 20, 2017
/s/Alan D. Piper
Alan D. Piper