Welcome to the County of Berks
RATS Technical Committee July 2017 Meeting Minutes
READING AREA TRANSPORTATION STUDY
MINUTES OF THE TECHNICAL COMMITTEE MEETING HELD ON JULY 13, 2017 AT THE BERKS COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION CONFERENCE ROOM ON THE FOURTEENTH FLOOR OF THE BERKS COUNTY SERVICES CENTER
 
ATTENDANCE
 
TECHNICAL COMMITTEE
Christopher Kufro PennDOT 5-0, Chair*
Ray Green, PennDOT Central

Alan D. Piper, Berks County Planning Commission

Tim Krall, City of Reading
Michael Golembiewski, Berks County Planning Commission
Dave Kilmer, SCTA/BARTA
*Tie-breaking Vote only
 
TECHNICAL COMMITTEE MEMBERS NOT ATTENDING

Terry Sroka, Reading Regional Airport

Ralph E. Johnson, City of Reading
 

OTHERS  

Kerry Fields, PennDOT 5-0
Gene Porochniak, PennDOT Central Office
Regina Zdradzinski, Berks County Planning Commission
David Berryman, Berks County Planning Commission
Devon Hain, Berks County Planning Commission
Zac Kopinetz, Berks County Planning Commission Intern
Cody Kleffel, Berks County Planning Commission Intern
Bill Royer for Ryan McKenzie
Craig Lutz for Senator Argall
Gail Landis, GRCEDC
David Mekeel, Reading Eagle
 
1.               CALL TO ORDER
 
         Chairman Kufro called the meeting to order at 1:33 p.m.
 
2.               REVIEW AND APPROVAL OF TECHNICAL COMMITTEE MINUTES OF MAY 4, 2017
 
         Chairman Kufro asked if there were and questions or comments to the May 4, 2017 Technical Committee Meeting minutes.
 
  MOTION:  Mr. Green made a motion to approve the March 4, 2017 Technical   Committee minutes.  Mr. Kilmer seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
3.            BUSINESS FROM THE FLOOR
         
There was no business from the floor.
 
4.            PENNDOT REQUESTED AMENDMENTS/MODIFICATIONS TO FFY 2017-2020 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.
 
Administrative Actions:  There were 13 Administrative Actions.  Two of these involved the addition of construction funding for the 18th Wonder and Boyertown Railroad Connectivity Transportation Alternatives Program projects that were approved using the MPO’s allocation.   The third project involved the addition of a new project to realign the intersection of SR 73 and SR 1005 (Maidencreek Road) in Maidencreek Township.  The remaining 10 actions reallocated funds within existing projects.
 
Mr. Piper stated that the Boyertown TAP project originally came in at the beginning of the year and was more than $200,000 over budget.  The applicant was asked to rescope the project.  The project was resubmitted within budget. 
 
5.            REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATION ON RATS PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PLAN/LIMITED ENGLISH PROFICIENCY PLAN
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that the formal 45-Day Public Comment Period ended yesterday.  It began Memorial Day weekend and there was a notice in the Reading Eagle.  Staff sent out over 250 electronic notifications to those who were involved in this update.  No comments were received from the public.  No one attended either of the public meetings, which were held on June 27, 2017 at BARTA and June 28, 2017 at the Berks County Agricultural Center. 
 
         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.  Also, a notification will be put on our documents that translations are available upon request.  The County of Berks has contracted with a firm that does language interpretations and language translations.  It was a service we said we would provide but never had available.  It was never pursued because staff never had a request.  The service is now available and done through the Berks County Planning Commission and the County’s contracting process. 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that one of the issues that came out during the initial set of meetings in February is identifying human service agencies.  Those who work with transportation challenged individuals including people being released from prison.  They need to find a job but do not have transportation to work.  We updated the mailing list to include agencies like that who work with a number of the groups that we need to look at. 
 
         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 regarding this process.  Appendix A.2 explains what went into the formulation of the two documents (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, copies of online and paper surveys).
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that surveys were actually available from January 2017 through yesterday.  A total of 165 responses were received.  Three responses were received yesterday.  The Berks County Planning Commission put out a survey regarding the beginning of our County Comprehensive Plan process.  Some of those people answered this survey instead of the County Comprehensive Plan survey.  A summary of the responses is shown in the Appendix.
 
         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 third highest listed; and other Western Germanic language is listed next.  Spanish is the language that we must translate as far as having these documents ready.  We need to find representatives in the community for the Vietnamese 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. 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that Appendix A.4 lists everything that went into the 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. Krall asked what the reason that no one attended these public meeting.  Mr. Golembiewski said he hopes that, given the large amount of coverage in the beginning of the process, people were able to include their input, saw that this process was being done and didn’t feel the need to attend another meeting.  Mr. Green asked if Mr. Golembiewski thinks the federal government will buy that reason.    Mr. Golembiewski preferred to not speculate on that.  He said it would be nice if they did.  Mr. Krall said if the federal government sees the same thing happening around the state, they might question it.   He is sure it is going on in other MPO’s around the state. 
 
          Mr. Golembiewski stated that staff reached out to the Latino community in different ways.  There is a local monthly magazine and he spoke to the publisher.  She gave ideas of people to reach out to.  The meeting was held at a local Latino restaurant, which is run by the former President of the Latino Chamber of Commerce.  Mr. Golembiewski had spoken to her as well.  One of the issues discussed would actually apply to the PennDOT Connects process during project specific public input opportunities.   When regional, county-wide, and long range projects are talked about, people of all language groups are not interested. They want to know about projects that are in their back yards, are happening now and will affect them directly. 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated the first four questions on the survey were about transportation planning in Berks County.  The results showed that 65% of the people do not know who does it, do not know how it happens or how it is done.  Most of the people know how it is paid for.  Other questions included what would be a good way to get information to the public and good ways to get information back to us.  There needs to be a greater emphasis put on a social media presence with immediate updates.  Chairman Kufro stated that Mr. Golembiewski put forth a great effort and has gone through multiple avenues and did a good job. 
 
         Mr. Krall asked if Survey Monkey tells you how many people linked to the survey but didn’t take the survey or only filled out part of it and then didn’t complete it.   Mr. Golembiewski said he can look at everyone’s individual answers to see what questions they did or did not complete.  He had the survey set that every question had to be answered other than a name and email that were optional.  Chairman Kufro stated that PennDOT Connects will help when you get more involvement from specific projects. 
 
MOTIONS:   Mr. Kilmer made a motion to recommend to the Coordinating Committee that they adopt Appendix A include it in both the Public Participation Plan and the Limited English Proficiency Plan.  Mr. Krall seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
 
MOTION:     Mr. Green made a motion to recommend to the Coordinating Committee that they adopt both the Public Participation Plan and the Limited English Proficiency Plan and make them final.  Mr. Piper seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. 
 
7.            UPDATE ON US 422 WEST SHORE BYPASS RECONSTRUCTION BYPASS
 
         Mr. Piper gave an update on the US 422 West Shore Bypass Reconstruction.  This project will extend from Rt. 12 to east of I-176.  The project will be in Preliminary Engineering for several years.  Last year, the Department put together a web page for the project (www. 422westshorebypass.com).  It gives: an overview of the project; a detailed plan of the draft proposal; documents the purpose and needs of the project; looks at  the different interchange areas.  The web page also contains an animated 3-D fly through showing the proposed improvements. 
 
         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 will need to be reconstructed.  The Penn Street Interchange is proposed to have what is referred to as a divergent 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 at Rt. 10, come down Rt. 10 into the City of Reading via Lancaster Avenue and the Bingaman Street Bridge.  The 1-176 Interchange basically has the same configuration but it is slightly relocated to allow for construction 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. Piper presented the 3-D digital flythrough of the project to the board. 
 
         Mr. Krall asked how long it would take to get this project completed.   Mr. Piper said the time frame to complete this $650 million project depends on how it is phased and funded. 
 
         Mr. Piper stated that this project is in the early preliminary stages and there are still many issues that need to be resolved.  There was one working group meeting held at the end of May with the Department, their consultants and members of the community regarding bicycle and pedestrian movements through the Penn Street and the Lancaster Avenue Interchange areas.  Proposals have been developed to address some of these issues of maintaining connectivity.  A follow-up meeting will be held with them on August 1, 2017.   After that, there will be a public meeting scheduled on August 15, 2017 at Alvernia University.  Further discussions will be held regarding how to phase this project and how to fund it.   
 
         Mr. Piper stated that, additionally, the County of Berks, working through its Department of Emergency Services, has put together a West Shore Bypass Task Force that is meeting with the police departments and emergency service providers in the area to look at procedures they can use to respond better to incident management now and during construction.   Projects are being done to update cameras and the dynamic message system signs.  There is also a proposal for doing a freeway service patrol on the highways.  Coordinating with the municipalities regarding incident management will go a long way.  The Department has assigned a designated person to help with this. 
 
         Mr. Piper stated that the areas that have jurisdiction over the bypass included the City of Reading, Wyomissing Borough, West Reading Borough, Cumru Township, and Exeter Township.  It gets complicated in an area between the Penn Avenue Interchange and the Lancaster Avenue Interchange where it could cover the City of Reading, West Reading Borough or Cumru Township within a very short distance.  Emergency vehicles would get dispatched depending on where an accident happens. 
 
         Ms. Landis, from the Greater Reading Chamber and Economic Development Corporation (GRCEDC), stated that they will be looking closer at the bicycle and pedestrian issues at the interchanges.
 
8.            COMMUTER SERVICES UPDATE
 
         In Mr. Boyer’s absence, Mr. Piper gave the update on Commuter Services.  He said that Earth Day was held in April with 352 commuters logged in that took 71,000 miles off the roads.  Bike Month was held in May and 64 bicyclists logged in which took 7,600 miles off the roads. 
 
6.            UPDATE ON TAP PROGRAM SCHEDULE AND REVIEW/RECOMMENDATION  OF PROPOSED FUNDING POLICY
 
    Mr. Piper stated that the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) does not exist anymore.  It is now called the Transportation Alternatives - Set Aside Program (TA-SA).  It is the same program but with a different name.  We will continue in the same way and piggyback on the Department’s application cycle and allow all applications to be submitted to one spot through PennDOT and come back to be available for MPO consideration with local dollars or be available through the state-wide funding.  There is approximately $556,000 available locally to cover a two-year period.  The state anticipates having a maximum of $55 million to fund projects for the same time period. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that the application period opened on Monday.  Today there was a webinar and all potential applicants were encouraged to participate and review the changes in the application process.  Applicants that are uncertain as to whether their project meets guidance can submit a request to PennDOT through August 25, 2017 to ensure that their project is eligible.  The application period closes on September 22, 2017.  The MPO has from that point until the end of the year to make any recommendations regarding projects using the locally allocated funding.  It is once again anticipated using the Technical Committee to serve as the committee to review projects and make recommendations to the Coordinating Committee. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that there are funding issues that relate to when a project goes over budget and how that would be handled.  We have always allocated all of the dollars available to projects.  The only reason that we have been able to make considerations on applying additional funds for project overruns in the past is because of projects that have been cancelled.  He does not foresee anything changing in that.  We are not planning to hold money in reserve.  He did feel, however, that there should be an approved policy that we follow. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that the current official PennDOT policy has any costs that are over what is included in an approved application are the responsibility of the project applicant.    It is proposed that, in instances where a project does have overruns, and only if there are funds available, we would participate in funding, but we would not necessarily fully fund the overrun of the project.  If we don’t have a policy, we are potentially inconsistent on how we apply money to some projects and not to others.  Having a policy will help us to be consistent.  There are also some cases where, in order to cover overruns, we are actually borrowing against current or future dollars to fund past projects.  The goal is to use the dollars for what they are intended and when they were intended.  The intention is not to give the project applicant more money.  We want people to have more realistic budgets and timetables on what they are submitting. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that the new program requires that the applicant must meet with the MPO and the Department prior to submitting their application to review their scope and project from a technical and budget standpoint so that it is reasonable.  Currently, some municipalities lowball the project’s budget by trying to match local bidding procedures.  Federal dollars are being used so federal procedures must be used and this drives up costs that should be accounted for in the application. 
 
 
           Mr. Piper asked what PennDOT does when a project comes in over budget.
Chairman Kufro stated that PennDOT goes through a justification process to make sure nothing is missed.  If they realize the actual bid is accurate and it reflects something accurate, then they accept it as the best bid.  If there are instances of overage, the project should be rescoped and resubmitted to PennDOT.  Mr. Piper explained some of the sample projects in the handout showing how some areas would change in terms of our outlay and what the sponsor would be required to pay in overage.  The program budget listed by the state has a minimum budget of $50,000.  That amount of money is not generally worth going through the federal process. 
 
Any new policy should definitely be a shared burden between the MPO and the project sponsor.  This is to be used as a safety net, if needed.  At the same time, imposing it will serve as an incentive to develop better projects and better budgets.  Mr. Kilmer asked if application budgets include a contingency.  Mr. Piper stated that they include a certain contingency.  A lot of them do not include a year of expenditure or construction inspection costs, which should be built into project estimates. 
 
Various scenarios were discussed with specific percentages or cash contributions
 
Mr. Green said it is a great thing that the MPO is trying to assist those that are in need.  Central Office expects the sponsors to be responsible for paying the overage.  This policy only applies to projects using MPO dollars.  If a project is funded out of a statewide program, the MPO has no obligation to account for overages in any regard. 
    
 Mr. Krall said he thinks this policy needs more discussion before sending to the Coordinating Committee.  Mr. Piper agreed, stating that it is better to have a policy that everyone agrees with.  Mr. Green stated that we will have to let the sponsors know that we will not just hand out a check to them if they drop the ball.  Mr. Piper stated that he would discuss this issue at the Coordinating Committee meeting next week to get feedback from them prior to our further review at our next meeting. 
                
9.            PENNDOT UPDATE ON HIGHWAY PROJECTS AND REVIEW OF DRAFT REVISED MAJOR PROJECTS STATUS REPORT
 
Chairman Kufro gave an update on the Highway projects.  (See Attachment).  
 
Mr. Piper stated that the Technical Committee tracks all of the projects at various stages of the project development process.  We have filtered major projects and presented those at the Coordinating Committee in the same format as the handout. At the request of the Coordinating Committee, they want to focus on the top 10 projects around Berks County. They wanted it to include a more detailed report that shows the project limits, that gives an idea of where each project stands in the various phases, when it will go to construction and be given an estimated date for completion.  
 
Mr. Piper presented the draft of the top projects that will be presented to the Coordinating Committee next week.  A list of other projects will also be given to them for consideration for addition to the revised report format.
 
10.        REPORT ON TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
 
         Mr. Piper stated that we are continuing with the process and will be going out to the municipalities for solicitation of projects this summer.  He went to the District 5-0 office in July and met with them regarding bridge projects that the Department would like to add to the TIP.  Ms. Fields also provided a list of projects from the LRTP to be considered for addition, as well.  Mr. Piper reviewed the Congestion Management Plan to identify other projects for consideration. 
 
         Mr. Piper stated that this whole process started with the STC survey in early spring.  An STC member and staff are scheduled to talk at our September meeting and give a presentation.  
 
         Mr. Green stated that there should be an announcement soon regarding the distribution of Spike Funds. 
 
11.        OTHER BUSINESS
 
         Mr. Piper reminded the board that the next Technical Committee meeting is scheduled for August 3, 2017.  It may be used to further discuss the TAP and TIP discussions. The September meeting will be a joint meeting with the Coordinating Committee on September 21, 2017 at the Reading Regional Airport. 
 
12.        ADJOURNMENT
 
MOTION: Mr. Golembiewski made a motion to adjourn the meeting.  Mr. Green seconded the motion and the meeting was adjourned at 3:15 PM.   
 
 
     Date:   8/3/17                               
 
                                                           /s/Alan D. Piper
Alan D. Piper