Welcome to the County of Berks
RATS July 2017 Coordinating Commitee Minutes
READING AREA TRANSPORTATION STUDY
MINUTES OF THE COORDINATING COMMITTEE MEETING HELD ON JULY 20, 2017 IN THE BERKS COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION CONFERENCE ROOM ON THE FOURTEENTH FLOOR OF THE BERKS COUNTY SERVICES CENTER
ATTENDANCE
 
COORDINATING COMMITTEE
Larry Shifflet, PennDOT Central Office, Acting Chair *
Ray Green, PennDOT Central Office for Michael Rebert, PennDOT 5-0
Kevin S. Barnhardt, County of Berks
Donna Reed, City of Reading
Shannon Rossman for James Mason, Berks County Planning Commission

Craig Lutz for Randall Swan, Reading Regional Airport Authority

Joseph E. Rudderow, III, 2nd Class Townships (Maidencreek Township)
Jeff Glisson for Dave Kilmer, SCTA/BARTA
 
COORDINATING COMMITTEE MEMBERS NOT ATTENDING
Tony Sacco, 1st Class Townships (Cumru Township)

Stephen H. Price, Boroughs (Wernersville)

 
*Tie-breaking Vote only
 

OTHERS   

Gene Porochniak, PennDOT Central Office
Kerry Fields, PennDOT 5-0
Alan D. Piper, Berks County Planning Commission
Michael Golembiewski, Berks County Planning Commission
Regina Zdradzinski, Berks County Planning Commission
David Berryman, Berks County Planning Commission
Jessie Seidel, Berks County Commissioners
John Slifko, City of Reading
Matt Boyer, Commuter Services
Bill Royer, Rep. Ryan McKenzie
Felix Colon, AIM
Angel Torres, AIM
Beth Brelje, Reading Eagle
 
1.         CALL TO ORDER
 
                 Acting Chairman Shifflet called the meeting to order at 1:30 p.m.
 
2.         REVIEW AND APPROVAL OF COORDINATING COMMITTEE MINUTES OF MAY 11, 2017
 
      Acting Chairman Shifflet asked if there were any questions or comments to the May 11, 2017 Coordinating Committee Meeting minutes.  
MOTION:    Mr. Rudderow made a motion to approve the May 11, 2017 Coordinating Committee Meeting minutes.  Ms. Reed seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
 
3.     BUSINESS FROM THE FLOOR
 
There was no business from the floor.
 
4.         PENNDOT UPDATE ON MAJOR PROJECTS
 
Mr. Piper stated that, based on prior meetings, the board requested a change in format of the report just focusing on the major projects and providing more information related to those projects.  Staff went through an initial list and selected nine projects with four of them being related to Rt. 222 North, the West Shore Bypass project, three more related to I-78, and the Penn Street Bridge project.  It is a combination of projects that are either currently under construction or in the design process.  Staff came up with a standardized form that includes a map showing the location of each project.  It also highlights the various phases of the project, working through Preliminary Engineering, Final Design and Construction.  If under construction, it identifies who the contractor is, when the project started, estimated cost, and estimated date of completion.  The board members liked the new format.
 
Acting Chairman Shifflet gave an update on the Major Projects.   
 
Mr. Piper said that there needs to be a discussion regarding the board selection of additional projects to consider or changes in the priority list.  There is also a separate sheet included which lists other significant projects throughout the MPO.  He asked the board to add other projects that they think are more significant than the one’s listed.  Mr. Rudderow told Mr. Piper that this list is good and we should run with this format and see if it helps the committee.  Acting Chairman Shifflet stated that most of this information can also be found on PennDOT’s PA Transportation Projects website (www.projects.penndot.gov).   
 
Mr. Slifko questioned the amount ($112 million) for the I-78 (12M) Mainline Reconstruction project.  Mr. Piper stated that the biggest part of that project is widening the 14-span bridge that goes over the Schuylkill River.  The bridge is approximately ½ a mile long.  It goes over the Schuylkill River, Reading Blue Mountain Northern Railroad, and Lowland Road.    This project also includes replacing the I-78 Bridge over Port Clinton Avenue on the west side; replacing the bridge on Rt. 6l over the interstate and realigning the ramps at the Rt. 61 interchange.  It contains three bridges altogether.   Mr. Slifko stated that the project is three times as expensive as the Penn Street Bridge project.  It is an old bridge and refurbishing it is more expensive than building a new one.
 
Ms. Reed asked for an update on the Penn Street Bridge.   Mr. Piper stated that a progress meeting was held yesterday.  It seems to be running very smoothly and on schedule.  He has heard nothing but good reports regarding traffic.  People are avoiding the areas as much as possible.  PennDOT and the contractor made changes to the timing of the traffic signal located at 2nd and Penn Streets that allows traffic to clear better. 
 
Commissioner Barnhardt stated that ReadingBridges.net will be scheduling a meeting before school is back in session for RACC and the schools located on S. 5th Street.  Ms. Reed asked if Front Street will be opened before school starts.  Mr. Piper said that Front Street is only supposed to be closed while RACC is not in session. 
   
5.         UPDATE ON US 422 WEST SHORE BYPASS RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT
 
         Mr. Piper stated that PennDOT has a webpage regarding this project www.422westshorebypass.com but it is not linked to any PennDOT webpage.  It shows photos, gives an overview of the project, shows improvement concepts, explains the purpose and need of the project, and allows visitors to sign up for email updates.  This project extends from Rt. 12 to just east of I-176 for reconstruction - widening to three lanes in each direction, and replacing all interchanges and bridges. There is a 3-D flythrough on the site based on the concept plan.  The concepts that are in place now are very early in the preliminary phases of the project.   There are still issues being resolved regarding bicycle/pedestrian access.   There was one specific workshop related to bicycle/pedestrian issues held on May 30, 2017.  Staff met with PennDOT and designers where concerns were expressed.  There will be a follow-up meeting with the same people on August l, 2017.  On August l5, 2017, there will be a formal public meeting regarding the project at Alvernia University at 6:00 pm. 
 
         Mr. Piper presented the 3-D digital flythrough of the project to the board.
The project would consist of widening the West Shore Bypass to three lanes in each direction and rebuilding all of the interchanges and associated bridges. Changes would be made at the North Wyomissing Interchange.  It would look the same as it is now except ramps would be modified to make U-turns legally.  Both of the overhead railroad bridges over the bypass will need to be reconstructed.  The Penn Street Interchange is proposed to have what is referred to as a diverging diamond interchange.  Traffic lanes would be flipped as they go through the interchange.  All of the turning movements are left-turn movements, instead of having movements across traffic.  Chairman Kufro stated that this alignment produces a better traffic flow.   The proposal for the Lancaster Avenue Interchange will have the interchange split in half and has a portion of the intersection lined up with Rt. 10 heading to and from the west.  The traffic going to and from the Exeter area would get off at new ramps to Rt. 10, and come down Rt. 10 to Lancaster Avenue and the Bingaman Street Bridge.  The 1-176 Interchange basically has the same configuration but it is slightly relocated to the north to allow for reconstruction for both river bridges on either side of the interchange.
 
           This project also involves the complete reconstruction of the Bingaman Street Bridge.  It would look to relocate the Schuylkill River Trail across that bridge and take the trail up the Reading side of the river where it would meet up with the existing trail at RACC.  
 
                 Mr. Rudderow asked if the railroads pay for the new bridges.  Mr. Piper said not in most cases.  
 
        
         Mr. Rudderow asked where another interchange like a Diverging Diamond is located.  Acting Chairman Shifflet said there is one in Washington County at the I-70/PA 519 Interchange. 
 
                 Mr. Piper stated that in West Reading there is a new road proposed for access to the substation and to the warehouse.  That road will also serve as a bicycle/pedestrian connector between the Wyomissing Creek Trail and the Penn Street Bridge.  The main line of the Schuylkill River Trail shifts to the Reading side between the two interchanges. 
 
                 Ms. Reed asked if the ROW will take part of Schlegel Park.  Mr. Piper said that it might impact the driveway but this has not been fully developed at this time.    
 
                 Mr. Piper stated that there were concerns regarding the cemetery along Rt. 10 near Lancaster Avenue.  The project actually moves the highway away from the cemetery. The trail is still going between the highway and the cemetery.  Fern Avenue access onto Rt. 10 will be closed under this scenario to prevent regional traffic from passing through this residential neighborhood.
 
                 Mr. Lutz asked when the bypass was originally constructed.  Mr. Piper said 1965.  Mr. Rudderow asked, in these plans, is future traffic growth looked at.  Mr. Piper stated that is one of the reasons why the project will have three lanes in each direction.   Mr. Piper stated that the designs are made to anticipate the full projected volume plus twenty years of growth.  
 
                 Mr. Lutz asked how long this project will take to complete.  The project will most likely be cut up into construction phases.  The estimate for the project is $650 million. Considering that we receive much less than that per year, Spike funding, public/private partnership funding or spreading construction out over multiple years based on funds available are some of the options.  The final selection of the funding method will ultimately drive the schedule. 
 
                 Mr. Piper and Commissioner Barnhardt are working with municipalities and the County’s Department of Emergency Services on a West Shore Bypass Task Force to look at ways to better coordinate responses for incident management for now and into the future.  PennDOT will send a representative to the meetings from the District Traffic Operations Center.  We will talk to other MPO’s to see how they manage their plans. 
 
6.     PENNDOT REQUESTED AMENDMENTS/MODIFICATIONS TO FFY 2017 TIP
 
         Ms. Fields gave an update on Amendments/Modifications to FFY 2017-2020 Highway TIP from April 27, 2017 through July 6, 2017.
 
Amendments - There were no Amendments during this period.
 
Administrative Actions - There were 14 Administrative Actions impacting the Reading TIP.  Two actions assigned funding from the TAP Line Item to the 18th Wonder and Boyertown Railroad Connectivity projects.  Another action provided for funding to improve the alignment of Maidencreek Road (SR 1005) with SR 73.  The balance involved reallocating funds within existing projects to account for changing needs.
 
7.    REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATION ON RATS PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PROCESS/LIMITED ENGLISH PROFICIENCY PLAN
 
           Mr. Golembiewski stated that this process is coming to an end.  The packets include the Public Participation Process regarding Appendix A.  The public meetings were advertised and no one attended either of the them, which were held on June 27, 2017 at BARTA and June 28, 2017 at the Berks County Agricultural Center.  He would hope that since there was a lot of participation at the beginning of the process that the public thought there was no need for participation at the end of the process. 
 
           Mr. Golembiewski said that the “Appendix A” handout will be included in the back of both documents.  Everything that has gone into updating these documents was listed.  Appendix A.l includes the contact lists used from January 2017 through July 2017.  
 
            Appendix A.2 explains all of the various activities that occurred during the formulation of the two documents, including initial public release, copies of newspaper articles, WFMZ articles, power point presentations given at the two meetings, sign-in sheets, discussing comments made at those meetings,  and copies of online and paper surveys.  Reading through this, Mr. Golembiewski realized that he missed two items.  Those involve working with Abilities in Motion.  He met with their Consumer Action group in January and April.  He also was involved with one of the BCTV programs with one of their group members.
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that Appendix A.3 lists the actual language groups that reside in Berks County as derived from the Census American Community Survey.  Besides English, Spanish is the number one language group; Vietnamese is the next highest listed; and other Western Germanic language is listed after that.  Spanish is the language that we must translate as far as having these documents ready.  We need to find representatives in the Vietnamese community to find out how to reach out to that group.  There is not one concentrated area in Berks County where they live; they are scattered around Berks County.  The challenge is to work with leaders in that community to find out where these people are located and how we can reach out to them. 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that Appendix A.4 lists everything that occurred during the formal 45-day Public Comment Period.  Descriptions of actions that were taken, a copy of public notice advertised in the Reading Eagle newspaper along with the Spanish version that was sent out, how it was placed on our website in English and Spanish, copies of the surveys in English and Spanish, newspaper articles that were done by the Reading Eagle, opening statement prepared to open each meeting, and public meeting surveys that were available at each meeting. 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that one of the changes that will happen from going through this process is figuring out what is considered to be our vital documents and having those documents or a summary translated into Spanish and made available. The Federal Government tells us we have to do it, but they don’t tell us which documents are vital.  There is no notification or legislation.  There is also a range of documents the other MPO’s think are vital. Anything dealing with Title VI, policy, complaint procedure, forms, annual schedule and public meetings has already been translated and posted on the Planning Commission’s front doors in English and Spanish.   Usually, we just post a PDF of the meeting agenda and meeting minutes on our website.  As of March, it is now being provided as a web page.    With the translator on the web page, click on the language and automatically translate the minutes and agenda. 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that, we were told that we can either do the whole document or an executive summary type is acceptable.  Go forward with the Long Range Transportation Plan, TIP, Public Participation Plan and the Limited English Proficiency Plan, we will get executive summaries created and those will be translated into Spanish and made available in print and on the website. 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that there were many discussions on how to get the word out to the public.  County-wide long range planning does not generate much public interest.  There is a big concern regarding project level activities.  As we start going through the PennDOT Connects process, we will be meeting with communities on an individual project basis to get the word out regarding what is going on and how they can have their say.
 
MOTION:    Mr. Lutz made a motion to adopt Appendix A and to include it in both the Public Participation Plan and the Limited English Proficiency Plan.    Mr. Rudderow seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
 
MOTION:    Mr. Green made a motion to adopt both the Public Participation Plan and the Limited English Proficiency Plan in their entirety.   Mr. Rudderow seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. 
 
8.     UPDATE ON TAP PROGRAM SCHEDULE AND REVIEW/RECOMMENDATION OF PROPOSED FUNDING POLICY
          
            Mr. Piper stated that the new round of the program that was formerly known as the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) and has now been renamed Transportation Alternatives - Set Aside Program (TA-SA) is now in progress. In June, all of the program documents available on PennDOT’s website were forwarded to Berks County municipalities. 
 The application period opened July 10th, 2017.  There was a statewide webinar last Thursday that potential applicants could participate in to educate themselves on the program process and the changes over the prior program.     
 
           Mr. Piper stated that the schedule is that applications can be submitted anytime from July 10th through September 22, 2017. Through August 25, 2017, applicants have an opportunity, if they are not certain their project fits in one of the criteria, to submit a summary of their project to PennDOT to determine whether or not the project is eligible. 
 
           Applicants are highly recommended to meet with both the MPO and PennDOT District Office to review their projects regarding eligibility, scope and cost estimates.  Most municipalities grossly underestimate the level of involvement required and the level of effort that is required and the difference between a purely municipally developed and let project when compared to a project that uses federal dollars.  
 
           Mr. Piper stated that there are a few potential applicants already and staff met with one this morning and gave them feedback.  They will still have to meet with the Department.  If the applicant meets with the MPO and the Department before the application is submitted, bonus points will be earned.  If you meet with the MPO and the Department after the application is submitted, advice is given but bonus points are not earned.  If there is no meeting with either the MPO or the Department, the project will not be eligible. 
 
           Mr. Piper said that the applications are due September 22, 2017.  PennDOT will send them to the MPO by September 29, 2017.  The MPO has until January 5, 2018 to complete the internal rankings. It is anticipated that the Technical Committee will review the applications and prepare a recommendation to bring to the Coordinating Committee for their approval at the November meeting.  Hopefully, early in calendar year 2018, we would have the local recommendations, the state would have the statewide recommendations and all of this falls right into the TIP update. 
 
           Mr. Piper stated that the dollars available to our area has not changed based on the legislation.  Berks County will get $556,000 for the two-year period.  Statewide, PennDOT is estimating that they will have up to a maximum of $55 million available to cover that two-year period.  This is the largest program they ever offered.       
 
           Mr. Lutz asked how the municipalities are supposed to be aware of this program.  Mr. Piper stated that PennDOT sends material to anyone that applied in the past.  Staff sends material directly to every municipality in Berks County.  We have sent reminders twice already letting the municipalities know about this program.   Acting Chairman Shifflet said that PennDOT had a press release as well. 
 
           Mr. Lutz asked how many applications we received so far.  Mr. Piper said none yet.  The application process only opened last Friday so most people are still in the planning stage.  We think there are four candidate projects and there will most likely be more.  Mr. Lutz and Mr. Slifko asked for a list of the candidate projects and the Guidance document.  Staff has only had preliminary contact with people that are thinking of submitting projects. 
 
           Mr. Piper stated that, in past meetings, we have discussed coming up with a policy of funding Transportation Alternatives Program cost overruns.  It was talked about at the Technical Committee meeting last week. There is a memorandum included in the packets.  The Technical Committee decided they need more discussion on this issue.  Mr. Piper asked the Coordinating Committee to read through the information and get back to Mr. Berryman or himself with any comments.  The Technical Committee will review this again on August 3, 2017 with the possibility of bringing a policy recommendation back to the board in September 2017.
 
          
 
9.         REPORT ON TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
                 
           Mr. Piper stated that they are 25% into the TIP update process.  Staff has worked with Acting Chairman Shifflet this year putting together the Financial Guidance and we are close to having final numbers out on that.  Procedural Guidance has been put out.  Preliminary meetings were held within the District in which costs were adjusted for current projects.  The Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) was looked at and project recommendations were made.   Staff also met with District 5-0’s Bridge Unit to go over a potential list of bridge candidate projects.  The Congestion Management Program, which was adopted last year, was also looked at and a few traffic and roadway project recommendations were made. 
 
           One of the items to be discussed at the next Technical Committee Meeting will be to see how much room we have to move potential candidate projects forward.  The goal is to have a draft program together by the end of 2017 and ready to be adopted by July 2018.   We are six months ahead of schedule.  As new projects are identified, they will need to be incorporated into the PennDOT Connects process. We will then have discussions with the municipalities regarding the scope of work for each proposed project. 
 
           The State Transportation Commission (STC) did a statewide survey and we received preliminary results from them.  We will discuss in detail what we found in terms of the feedback from the public through their process.  Mr. Piper addressed one interesting fact. We found that, in the State Transportation Commission survey, people can recommend the project or voice a concern.  The STC has a process that looks at the TIP and people received feedback stating which projects were already being looked at.  There are a very high number of projects that are already being addressed.  Most of the complaints received are concerning the Rts. 222 and 422 Corridors.
 
10.        COMMUTER SERVICES UPDATE
 
           Mr. Boyer handed out the Commuter Services Program Update and stated that Commuter Services of PA is in their 13th year.  The program started back in 2004-2005.  Berks County joined in 2009.
 
           He noted that there were 352 people who participated in their Earth Day event, with over 70,000 miles removed from the roads as part of that promotion.  May was Bike Month.  Sixty four cyclists registered their rides and took 7,600 miles off the roads. 
 
           The Dump the Pump Campaign took place in June.  People who use alternative modes can write a synopsis of why they ride, what mode they changed to and what their decision was based on for a chance to win prizes.
 
                     Mr. Boyer stated that each year Commuter Services uses a Performance Measuring Tool and the report was presented to their Board of Directors yesterday.  This Performance Measuring Tool asks the people in the Ride Share Data Base how many give credit to Commuter Services for them changing their mode.  When you speak to people that say they are doing things differently, 33 million miles were taken off the road that actually give Commuter Service credit.  The people that are doing a different mode and giving credit to their employers or corporate co-worker who introduced them to the program but still making the change, 224 million miles were taken off the road.  It is a significant number but has decreased slightly since last year.   Outreach has not changed and the amount of people reached has increased.  Sometimes there are less people willing to change modes when the economy is doing better. 
 
                  Mr. Boyer stated that Commuter Services had an 89% favorable rating as far as identification and a 3% unfavorable rating.  There are reasons for this.  Carpools are not located in some areas, and no bus transit line available, etc.  Of the five transit authorities that are measured in our tool, BARTA had the highest increase percent in favorable ratings.  Transit as a whole is at a 10-year high as far as people in our data base using transit as an alternative mode. 
 
11.        OTHER BUSINESS
                 
           Mr. Rudderow asked for clarification on the Rts. 222 North/73 intersection.  Turning lanes are being proposed in this area.  Will this include turning arrows on both routes?  Mr. Piper stated that he is not sure if PennDOT ever made that determination yet.  That is generally a final design decision.  Mr. Rudderow stated that he thinks the turning lanes with turning arrows would help at that intersection. 
 
           Mr. Rudderow asked if he could be provided with an update on the Schaeffer Road Bridge.  Mr. Piper will check with the County and let Mr. Rudderow know.  The bridge belongs to the county at this time but will be transferred to Maidencreek Township once it is reconstructed.
 
12.        ADJOURNMENT
 
MOTION:  Mr. Rudderow made a motion to adjourn the meeting.  Ms. Reed seconded the   motion and the meeting was adjourned at 2:58 PM.
 
 
 Date:    9/21/17
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/s/Alan D. Piper
     Alan D. Piper