Welcome to the County of Berks
RATS March 2, 2017 Technical Committee Minutes
 
READING AREA TRANSPORTATION STUDY
MINUTES OF THE TECHNICAL COMMITTEE MEETING HELD ON MARCH 2, 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

Ralph E. Johnson, City of Reading
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

 

OTHERS  

Kerry Fields, PennDOT 5-0
David Roston, PennDOT 5-0

Shannon Rossman, Berks County Planning Commission

Regina Zdradzinski, Berks County Planning Commission
David Berryman, Berks County Planning Commission
Devon Hain, Berks County Planning Commission
Matt Boyer, Commuter Services of PA
Bill Royer, Rep. Ryan Mackinzie
Andrea Bernet, Rep. Caltagirone
Tom Gombar, Senator Judy Schwank
Genesis Ortega, Congressman Charlie Dent
Sam Loth, BOSS 2020
Bob Ludgate, Sinking Spring Borough
Liam Migdail-Smith, Reading Eagle
 
1.          CALL TO ORDER
 
         Chairman Kufro called the meeting to order at 1:32 p.m.
 
2.          REVIEW AND APPROVAL OF TECHNICAL COMMITTEE MINUTES OF JANUARY 5, 2017
 
      Chairman Kufro asked if there were and questions or comments to the January 5, 2017 Technical Committee Meeting minutes.
MOTION:  Mr. Golembiewski made a motion to approve the January 5, 2017 Technical Committee minutes.  Mr. Green seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
 
3.        BUSINESS FROM THE FLOOR
         
There was no business from the floor.
 
4.        UPDATE ON SUPPLEMENTAL UPWP FUNDING REQUEST
          
         Mr. Piper stated that last year there was an opportunity to submit a request to PennDOT for additional planning funding.  Berks County and Lancaster County Planning Commissions each requested $30,000 in transit funding to be applied for SCTA to do an update on their Transportation Development Plan.  Those funds were approved and we are now attempting to figure out what paperwork we need to do to make that happen as soon as possible.  It is a matter of updating budget tables and submitting a revised scope of work to PennDOT. 
        
5.        SINKING SPRING BOROUGH PROPOSAL FOR FASTLANE APPLICATION
          
             Mr. Piper stated that Mr. Loth and Mr. Ludgate had asked for permission to speak to the committee regarding a proposal they are considering for submittal as a FASTLANE application for the US 422 Traffic Relief Project in Sinking Spring.  They are looking for feedback from the MPO with a potential endorsement. 
 
            Mr. Ludgate stated that, with the situation of a federal FASTLANE grant being available, Pennsylvania has another opportunity to submit an application in late fall of FFY 2018.  They think the process starts by asking the MPO to support this project.  The MPO would then ask the District for support with the District then asking PennDOT to submit the plan.  This is a small project in the $5-$6 million grant range.  There has been a substantial amount of money already invested by Sinking Spring Borough and the Commonwealth of PA. 
 
            Mr. Ludgate stated that there has been demolition along US 422 to allow realigning the Columbia Avenue intersection, which is one of two intersections included in this project.  He passed around information regarding the multi-phased project.  Phase 1 was completed in 2010, which installed a new signal on Penn Avenue with restriping and provided for turning lanes into Queen Street.  That led to the demolition of the former Boscov’s property and the construction of a project called Spring Market.  That invested a substantial amount of private funds and $375,000 of borough funds to install a new signal and widen Queen Street to line up with Blanbird Drive across the way. 
 
            Mr. Ludgate stated that Phase II is the relocation of the Columbia Avenue intersection which was very much misaligned.  The former Borough Hall was sitting there, which was frequently hit by tractor trailers trying to make right hand turns and eastbound tractor trailers could not turn.  Years ago, a deal was made between PennDOT and Sinking Spring Borough to open up a residential street (Woodrow Avenue) for trucks traveling eastbound on US 422 to get back into the area of the petroleum industries.  Columbia Avenue/Mt. Home Road and Woodrow Avenue are listed as Intermodal Connectors.  There are several pipelines and a rail line that delivers alcohol.  Several industries rely on this petroleum and alcohol to produce products.  They all ship that product through Sinking Spring Borough in tanker trucks.   One of the problems with Phase 2 was that we are required to accommodate a WB67 trailer into the roadway design.  PennDOT said this is the wisest thing to do to provide for the big truck.  It increased the cost of Phase 2 and delayed the delivery of the project.  Now they have the plans, radius set and demolition done.  They are prepared to build the intersection and are working with the District to get certain improvements in place so that intersection can be built in 2018. 
 
            Mr. Ludgate stated that they have been dealing with a project that will ultimately cost $20 million ($7 million by Sinking Spring Borough, $7 million by PennDOT, $7 million by other agencies & private investments).  We are at a situation that we cannot deliver a project fast enough because of things that happened in the meantime.  The Reading Area Transportation Study (RATS) has also dealt with a constriction of funds and an expansion of needs.  The best available date through the current TIP is to hopefully see the project built sometime in the 2020’s.  That is too late to meet the borough’s needs.  The traffic congestion problem in Sinking Spring needs to be solved now. 
 
            FASTLANE comes up as a potential to deal with this issue. It has the ability to fund the project at roughly 60%, which would cover costs of demolition, ROW acquisition, and finance part of the construction.  Sinking Spring Borough has other sources to cover the other 40%.  If the project is down to $8 million to build everything, the 60% would cover $4.8 million.  A $5million grant would cover part of the property acquisition and construction would foot the bill. 
 
            Mr. Ludgate stated that in order to get to that spot is to ask the RATS Committee to find that the project is worthy and give BOSS 2020 the opportunity to proceed further along the line. 
 
            Mr. Loth stated that he and Mr. Ludgate have been through this before with RATS.  They made a success in West Reading in the early 2000’s.  Now they are trying to do the same thing in Sinking Spring Borough.  They have over 20 acres of private land that is underdeveloped, underpriced and undervalued because of the congested intersections and lack of access.   It is the trucks from the petroleum complex that are causing the congestion.  If we can resolve the issue by building this bypass road through these 20 acres of private land and the new intersections, we can diminish the truck traffic and the 20 acres of land becomes viable property, which is valuable to the state due to being able to build valuable commercial property along there.  This is potentially $60 million worth of commercial development.   Sinking Spring Borough is small with an operating budget of $2.6 million.  This project will cost about $12 million.
 
            Mr. Loth said their job is to move this project forward by looking for various ways to fund this project.  Mr. Ludgate stated that there is an issue with a pipeline that travels from Ohio to Philadelphia.   There are three new pipelines that feed into Sinking Spring Borough.  The Sunoco facility located on the outskirts of Sinking Spring Borough is going to more than double the delivery of the pipeline to it.   The Amerigas propane project is going to have a new connection to that pipeline and will be having propane fed to it.  There are no traffic projections yet from these industries. 
 
            Mr. Ludgate stated that it is good that this project is in the Long Range Transportation Plan, but several more years of deficit spending on the part of Sinking Spring Borough with their limited budget will be extremely difficult.  With the potential of more tanker truck traffic and the added pipelines in Sinking Spring Borough, there is a lot of uncertainty.  If we can move forward with the help of the Department, maybe they   could meet a schedule with 2019 construction.  Mr. Loth said the faster the better with this project.  BOSS 2020 has an interest to work this course of action and strategically look at other possibilities.  One of them is a FASTLANE grant application we may be able to have sent in by PennDOT to the federal government by the end of the year.  They are asking for support of the application as they move forward and provide them with the guidance that they will need. 
 
            Chairman Kufro stated that PennDOT Districts do not submit FASTLANE applications and do not pick and choose to support any.  The MPO can choose to support the application based on its priorities.   Central Office/PennDOT has their own submission.  PennDOT submits one application for a federal grant.  It can be supported by this committee.   Further discussions would have to take place regarding the priorities of this matter. 
 
            Mr. Piper stated that FASTLANE dollars coming in are federal dollars and would be supplemental to our regular allocation.   The dollars still come with all of the strings applied to any other federally-funded project and the required processes leading up to that project.  Chairman Kufro agreed.  Mr. Piper asked how does having an application that provides you with this funding accelerate the schedule.  Mr. Ludgate stated that the borough is poised to proceed with acquisition to acquire all of the property necessary in a short time frame.  They already have a Commonwealth Finance Agency (CFA) grant of $1.1 million to do the first segment of Phase 3 of that plan.  It does not address the big intersection (422/724).  He said, in anticipation, the rules of FASTLANE are difficult to follow.  It appears the federal government is looking for shovel-ready projects.  Our consulting engineer, STV Engineering, is working on the entire plan.  Mr. Ludgate stated that they are focusing on one phase at a time, which got them into trouble due to overlaps and problems.  BOSS 2020 now focuses on the entire four-phase project, which is the only way to succeed.
 
            The TIP has Preliminary Engineering money ($440,000) for FFY 2019.  BOSS 2020 would like to move their design faster than that, if the opportunity presents itself.   Mr. Piper stated that the MPO expressed an interest in saying that the moment the FFY 2017 TIP was adopted we were willing to discuss advancing that from FFY 20l9 to FFY 2018 and let the process run itself.  Mr. Piper said it is definitely a needed project.  He has a concern that moving three different phases at once is getting in each other’s way.  The process needs to run itself for FASTLANE funding if it gets applied on top of the project that is going through the TIP.  Sinking Spring Borough would not be spending the 40%; the funding would be coming through our TIP dollars.   Mr. Loth stated, that according to the guidelines that exists now and assuming it stays the way it is from the past administration, non-federal share of the cost is able to be used.  There can be additional federal funds as long as they are not FASTLANE funds.  Mr. Piper stated that the match would be the existing funding that is listed in the TIP and LRTP.
 
            Mr. Green asked, in the instance that the FASTLANE funds don’t come through, does BOSS 2020 have a Plan B.  Mr. Loth said yes.  They have a financing plan as a backup.  Mr. Green asked what would happen to the RATS TIP if the Department would advance each phase.  If the funds are advanced, PennDOT might have to push out work, which is not a good idea.  Mr. Piper said that, even if the funding is advanced for the initiation of the Preliminary Engineering, we are not really changing anything that is in our LRTP or TIP right now.  Everything constantly moves through the process.  It will not have adverse effect on the TIP or LRTP starting Preliminary Engineering a year early.  Chairman Kufro stated that there will be progress to see in the next TIP update and then we can re-prioritize projects. 
 
            Mrs. Rossman asked if there is a minimum amount that a grant can be applied for.  Mr. Loth said a minimum grant is $5 million.  Chairman Kufro stated that there are two program levels; projects under $100 million and projects over $100 million. 
 
            Mr. Piper stated that we need to look at the specifics for this project.  He wants to make sure the MPO knows exactly what they are asking for regarding this project before the committee endorses the project. 
 
            Mr. Ludgate said advancing the Preliminary Engineering would be very beneficial.  Another concern is that Sinking Spring must draw down the grant that they have already been given for Segment 1 of Phase 3.  It is important that they would line up with Phase 4.  BOSS 2020 is prepared to have their consulting engineer update the plan and use the first part of that plan (Segment 1of Phase 3) to get that part ready for bid.  Phase 4 needs to be aligned and may require several design exceptions with grading and other alignment issues.  There will be requests for design exceptions for curvature and grade in a few instances.  They need to get the design exceptions exposed and agreed upon in order to have complete confidence while moving towards Phase 4. 
 
MOTION:  Mr. Johnson made a motion for staff to work with Sinking Spring Borough and the Federal Highway Administration to further investigate the scope for funding for a FASTLANE grant application.  Mr. Piper seconded the motion and it   passed unanimously.
 
 
6.        PENNDOT UPDATE ON TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES PROJECTS AND POLICY DISCUSSION
 
           Chairman Kufro gave an update on Transportation Alternatives projects. (See  Attachment).
 
           Mr. Piper stated that there is a track record for this program. Some of the projects go over their approved costs rather significantly.  It specifically states in every application that any costs over the award are to be the responsibility of the project sponsor.  Through our ability to reallocate dollars within the program, we have been able to avoid a crisis in most cases.  In some cases, we have had gradual scope creep occur on projects that are on-going. 
 
           Mr. Piper noted that the chart shows projects that have been approved recently and where they stand now.  Other than the two canceled projects, there is not another project listed that came in under budget.  The Sinking Spring/Penn Avenue project shows as matching the $353,777 obligated amount because the original plan submitted in that case went out for bids and came in at over $800,000.  Our response to Sinking Spring Borough was that we are not giving them an extra $500,000 for a project.  It was suggested that they revise the scope of the project and come back with a plan that is more appropriate. 
 
           Mr. Piper stated that changes were made to other projects along the way.  The list shows us as being only $97,000 over budget for nine projects.  The only trouble is that the $97,000 also includes over $600,000 worth of projects that were canceled with the funds being reallocated.  We would be almost $700,000 over budget if we move forward with this last project for the Berks County Redevelopment Authority (Colebrookdale R.R). 
 
           Mr. Piper stated that we are trying to work our way through all of the outstanding projects.  Mr. Krall expressed a pending request for the two Reading projects for approximately $19,000.  Upon review of the current approved costs provided by Ms. Fields, Mr. Krall stated that the current costs are all up to date.   He asked if the difference is between the initial award and the current cost.  Mr. Piper said yes.  Ms. Fields stated that the $945,000 is what has been obligated for that project. 
 
           Mr. Piper stated that he is looking at the projects that were awarded and are currently in progress.  The Lancaster Avenue Crosswalk project put us in a bind.    It probably should not have been a TAP project.  It was suggested that this project was going to be a difficult process for a $25,000 project but they wanted to proceed anyway.  The project ultimately needed about $14,000 more.  Mr. Piper said their bid would have expired on March 13, 2017.  Since it was a relatively small amount of money, the project was provided the additional funds in order to move it forward and get it off the books. 
 
           Mr. Piper stated that the Colebrookdale R.R. project has a $203,000 grant.  The bid that was just recently opened came in at $423,000.  That is more than 100% increase in the cost over what we had programmed.  There is no justification for this amount.  We asked both Cumru Township/Shillington Borough (Crosswalk project) and the Berks County Redevelopment Authority (Colebrookdale R.R.) if they were willing to contribute any additional dollars to see their projects move forward.  A negative response was received from Cumru Township and Shillington Borough. The Berks County Redevelopment Authority offered 10% of the overage, which would reduce the difference from $190,000 to $175,000.  We do not have a hard and fast policy in terms of a reaction when there is an overage in this category if there are no unallocated TAP funds to match these projects. Dollars would have to be taken away from other highway and bridge projects that are funded through federal STP funds. 
 
           Mr. Piper looked at the three projects that have just been approved in the latest funding cycle.  Their cost is over $1.6 million.  There might be a serious overage again with even a smaller percentage increase in costs. It is important for the committee to address both the current project and the future projects and to come up with a policy to address those issues in the future.  If a project comes in with an overage would the project sponsor be responsible for 100% of the overage.  Is it fair to do this to a project sponsor now? A number of potential options were discussed. We need to come up with certain scenarios that we can vote on at a future meeting.  It cannot be a flat percentage point or a flat dollar amount.  It needs to be a combination of both.  Mr. Green asked if it would be good ideas to have the project sponsor rescope the project if it is above the approved amount.  Mr. Piper said that we would be at that point at some time.  We might need to give that option to the Redevelopment Authority for their project now.  Whatever comes out of this process may influence how we screen future projects for recommendations.  If an applicant has not reviewed their budget with us and the Department before submitting their project, we will not consider it.  Or we would consider it but it would get a much lower ranking. 
 
           Mr. Johnson asked if we had checked with other MPO’s to see how they would handle this type of situation.  Mr. Piper said not yet.  Mr. Johnson stated that maybe some other MPO already has a format that is working well for them.  Small municipalities are more financially strapped.  In addition to having a cap, on the lower end, we could do up to $10,000 or 10%, whichever comes first.  Sometimes the small projects come in double their price.  Give the smaller communities a change to get their projects done.  Mr. Piper stated that, in that particular instance, we made a local rule to waive the guidance from the program.  The program actually stated that the projects should not be lower than $50,000.  It was waived to go down to $25,000 for the Cumru Township project.  Mr. Krall stated that the reason why the City’s Crosswalk project was high was because of the limited number of contractors able to bid on the job.  Since it is a streetscape project, there is specialty work, which includes concrete, electrical, street lighting, decorative embossing, pavement, etc.  Smaller contractors are not pre-qualified to do that type of work.  There is a limit by the bigger contractors who are pre-qualified.  Competition is lost in the process so the price goes up. 
 
           Mr. Piper did speak to the project sponsor regarding the Colebrookdale project.  They wanted to rebid the project and PennDOT said not without re-scoping the project.   Their original dollars are still on the table, but they will have to rescope the project first.  The bid they have now is only on the table until April 10, 2017.  They would need to reject all bids, rescope and readvertise.  
           The committee can work on a policy to take action at a later meeting.  Mr. Piper will research other areas to get their ideas on re-scoping projects.  Chairman Kufro stated that this information puts everything into perspective with costs.  He agrees with Colebrookdale to see if they have to cancel or rescope the project.  The best avenue would be to rescope the project. 
 
           Mr. Golembiewski asked if the TAP project is awarded funds through the State round instead of through the local, do sponsors have an avenue to go back directly to the Department to request more money.  Does the Department have a policy?  Mr. Green stated that, on a case by case basis, they will consider funding the increase.  As to guidance, he was not sure.  It depends on the actual cost amount. 
 
MOTION:   Mr. Piper made a motion to recommend to the Coordinating Committee that we   take no action on the additional funding for the Redevelopment Authority’s Colebrookdale Railroad project.  We ask that the sponsor rescope or rebid the project.  If not willing to do so, they can cancel the project. Mr. Golembiewski seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. 
 
           Chairman Kufro asked Mr. Johnson if the City is comfortable with its current applications.  Are the design funds in place?  Mr. Johnson said no.  The application was filed a few years ago.  It is a $1.8 million project.  The City is in the process of re-scoping the project and trying to come up with design money. 
 
           Mr. Piper stated that the kick-off meeting was held with the City of Reading and Birdsboro Borough.  Birdsboro was a scalable project in terms of doing sidewalks, curb cuts and adjustments based on the amount of dollars in their estimates.  The two city projects both originated through other agencies in cooperation with the City of Reading. Representatives from the other agencies were not available for the discussion at the kick-off meeting.  The City was going to meet with those other agencies since there are still open issues.
 
           Mr. Piper stated that $445,712 of our local dollars is involved in the 18th Wonder Project and $105,000 of our local dollars is involved for the Birdsboro project.  There is an additional $216,200 for the Birdsboro project and the entire $910,099 for the Schuylkill River Trail project that were statewide TAP funds.  The main issue with the scope for the Schuylkill River Trail project was the anticipation of a corresponding match of $900,000 through a DCNR grant.  That grant was not approved.   There is no match for the other half of the project and this needs to be resolved.   Chairman Kufro asked how much time there is to resolve this.  There is no immediate need to address this issue but the project cannot drag.  These projects need to be ready to bid by August, 2018. 
 
           Chairman Kufro asked the staff to come up with a few potential options regarding a cap on the project overages.  Mr. Piper said he wants to get more background information on this process and will propose something for the next meeting. 
          
7.        PENNDOT REQUESTED AMENDMENTS/MODIFICATIONS TO FFY 2017-2020 TIP
 
           Ms. Fields gave an update on Amendments/Modifications to FFY 2017-2020 Highway TIP from January 5, 2017 through February 23, 2017.
 
Amendments: There were no Amendments.
 
Administrative Actions:  There were 22 Administrative Actions.  One of these addressed the applicant of the balance of the repurposed earmark funds to the Fleetwood roadway project.  A second added the two new projects added with funding from the statewide TAP allocation.  The remaining 20 reallocated funds within existing projects.
 
8.        UPDATE ON PENNDOT CONNECTS IMPLEMENTATION
 
          Mr. Piper stated that the governor officially launched the “PennDOT Connects” program last week.  He said there is an initial list of projects from the TIP that would be the first to start meeting with the municipalities regarding developing the scope of work.  He was not sure why the Rts. 73/l2 Intersection project was not on the list.  Chairman Kufro stated that maybe two projects were combined into one project since they have one consultant. (This project was later added to the list.)  He stated that PennDOT is still waiting to officially hear about training modules.  The MPO’s will be reminded to select the right people to attend the meeting to see how the projects link up with Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) since there are limited funds.
 
9.          UPDATE ON FFY 2019 PROGRAM UPDATE KICKOFF
                   
         Mr. Piper stated that the TIP was adopted by the US DOT last October 2016.  Now it is time to start updating again for the FFY 2019 program. The update is starting relatively early this year with the State Transportation Commission doing their initial round of project and issue solicitation on their web page (www.talkpatransportation.com).  A survey will be online beginning this coming Monday and will be available through April 19, 2017.  The public is invited to share feedback. 
 
         Mr. Piper stated that there will also be an online public meeting held by Secretary of Transportation, Leslie Richards, on March 21, 2017 at 6:30 P.M.  Registration is needed via website in order to attend the meeting  The Secretary of Transportation will conduct a general overview to identify the key issues that will affect the future update. 
 
         Mr. Piper stated that we will be using our website and Facebook resources to send notice to the public in Berks County.  We will also follow up and have a local solicitation for project input as well later in the year. 
 
 
 
10.       UPDATE ON RATS PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PROCESS/LIMITED ENGLISH PROFICIENCY PLAN
 
Mr. Golembiewski stated that back in January; we decided to have more public involvement for the plan instead of giving the staff update on these two documents.  We sent out the initial e-mail blast, press releases and other announcements at the end of January.  There is an online survey circulating, in which we received 150 responses back along with a few paper copies as well. 
 
Mr. Golembiewski stated that there were two public meetings held: one on February 21st in the evening at the Agricultural Center and one this past Tuesday (February 28th) afternoon at BARTA.  There were 4 members of the public that attended the first meeting and there were 17 people at the second meeting.  Many of those people belonged to social service agencies.  It was a productive meeting with a good dialogue regarding portions of the population that we are not reaching, and how we can work with the social service agencies to reach out to those portions of the population that we need to reach more.  At this point, the survey will be left open for another couple of weeks. 
 
Mr. Golembiewski stated that we had issues with Spanish/English translation services.  As a county agency, we have to work under county contracting rules.  The County of Berks only approved a contract for services two weeks ago.  The survey needs to be translated and made available specifically for the Spanish population so they have the opportunity to complete it.   Mr. Golembiewski met with the publisher of the local monthly bilingual magazine called, El Palo, Tuesday morning.  There was dialogue there regarding what we can do on a more local level, things that would work out on a specific project level other than on an overall countywide planning level. 
 
Mr. Golembiewski stated that a lot of people are interested in what we do, but do not know who does it, how it is done, and why it is done.  This was the information he was giving at the public meetings and through the surveys. 
 
Mr. Golembiewski said that there is a small, informal group of ten people who expressed interest in forming a Citizen’s Advisory Committee.  We will be working together to add the changes to the existing Public Participation Plan and the Limited English Proficiency Plan.  The documents will be updated based on the information we receive from the surveys and from the two public meetings.  The ultimate goal is to have those updates wrapped up at the end of April to bring them back to this committee in May for a recommendation to the Coordinating Committee to go out to formal public comment. At that time we will do another round of public meetings, have a 45-day public comment period with eventual adoption of both plans in July 2017. 
 
Chairman Kufro asked what the major concerns are.  Mr. Golembiewski stated that some of the issues that have come up through the survey are to increase the social media presence.  Right now, Berks County Planning Commission has a Facebook page.  As RATS, we should have our own Facebook page to be updated regularly.  We should connect with a lot of the social service agencies.  Spanish language translation is, with the growing Latino population in this county, something we continuously need to work on.  These efforts need to be made now that we have contracts underway. 
 
Mr. Golembiewski stated that not everyone reads the Reading Eagle newspaper or watches the Reading news.  Very few read the legal advertisements regarding the public comment periods.  We need different ways to get the word out regarding the public meetings.  That is where a social media presence would come much more valuable to work with.  Mr. Piper stated that there are certain things that can be done to get information on the radio to get the messages out to the public.   
 
Chairman Kufro asked which multimodal transportation issues came up.  Mr. Golembiewski stated that there were two major issues that came up.  The first meeting’s issue was from a group of bicyclists who were concerned about the potential removal of the RACC Bridge.  This will be a process that will occur with the reconstruction of the West Shore Bypass.  This will not be happening in the immediate future. Mr. Piper actually talked to the group about this situation.  This will be an ongoing discussion as far as overall bicycle/pedestrian access through that project. 
 
Mr. Golembiewski stated that the second meeting was attended by representatives from a number of social services agencies.  The constituencies that they serve are all people who generally do not have access to a car.  They are very transit dependent, bicycle/ pedestrian dependent, carpooling type of situations people.  The issues were bus routes that do not meet their work schedules or take them where they need to go to work.  We will have to take a closer look at these issues when updating the Long Range Transportation Plan, TDP or the Human Services Public Transportation Coordination Plan.  Mr. Piper stated that we do understand that these issues do exist and with having an avenue to have a discussion with them is a big step forward for us. 
 
11.       UPDATE ON FEDERAL CERTIFICATION REVIEW
 
Mr. Piper stated that the Federal Certification Review was held in October 2016.  Just this past week, we received a preliminary copy of the report from FHWA.  This is not a final report.  Based on our review, there were some minor technical edits that needed to be made to the documents.  We are anticipating that there will not be any major changes and they should have a final report issued by March 15, 2017, which is the deadline.
 
Within the document itself, FHWA reviewed all of our plans, programs and processes. There are three forms of comment that can be offered. They are:
 
1)      A Corrective Action is a statement that something absolutely must be changed, within a specific time frame. This does not apply to us because we did not receive any Corrective Actions;
 
2)      Recommendations are ideas that indicate actions we could take to make a better product.  There were seven recommendations included in the report.  We were told to continue to coordinate with PennDOT, the Transit Authority, and FHWA on how to put together details of Performance Measures as we move forward.  Much of this has to do with complying with Performance Measures mandated, but not yet established, at the state and federal levels and how they are translated into our plans.  There were three separate Recommendations regarding the Congestion Management process. One is to continue to improve our efforts to analyze places where we have implemented projects to try to document that project’s impact on congestion.  Another recommendation was that the MPO staff begins a conversation on non-recurring congestion.  It also recommends that staff explore discussions of freight’s role in regional congestion levels and identify problematic intersections or bottlenecks.  This is the next step in our Congestion Management process. We will identify specific recommendations within the corridors regarding congestion itself, freight movement and safety within those corridors.  We received three additional comments regarding Title VI and the Limited English Proficiency Plan.  Most of these recommendations relate specifically to our prior lack of having material available in a foreign language, specifically Spanish.  Many of these issues are already being addressed.  We are looking to provide both documents and alternate media available in that language;
 
3)  We received five commendations.  The team highly congratulated the MPO’s effort in re-doing our Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).  They said it was “very readable, understandable and conveys important information and graphics of current conditions of the transportation system.  This thorough and comprehensive document is a statewide noteworthy practice and FHWA plans to showcase this as a model to other MPO’s, RPO’s for use in their LRTP.”  Mr. Piper commended Mr. Berryman and the rest of the Planning staff for doing a great job on the plan.  We also received commendations for   our Public Participation Process, the Performance Measures that were incorporated in the LRTP, and our update on the Congestion Management Process. Commendations   were also given to SCTA for their work on merging BARTA and Red Rose. 
 
12.       COMMUTER SERVICES UPDATE
 
               Mr. Boyer handed out the Commuter Services Program Update for the past six months.  He stated that the Earth Day promotion starts in April.  They will be working with transit and the planning partners.  Bike Month starts in May.  Preliminary stages are being planned for Commuter Services, Reading Health Systems, Penske Racing Shocks and others to bring Bike Month/Bike to Work Week Ride back to the City of Reading.
 
   In addition to the four promotions we have always done, a brand new marketing calendar was last month.  This gives employers and community partners a whole new way of participating with us and expands from four major promotions to forty.  Mr. Boyer said to let Commuter Services know if any organizations want to run a program or have a joint venture with them.
 
Mr. Boyer stated that Commuter Services met with the following business within the past month: Dollar General, EDSI, Good Will, Double Tree Hotels and Reading Health System. 
 
13.       OTHER BUSINESS  
 
·         Mr. Piper stated that, on Tuesday, Governor Wolf outlined a new state program called, The Road MAP Program, which means Maintenance and Preservation.  This program is based on defining how the state intends to use dollars they will receive by weaning the State Police from the Act 89 transportation dollars that are currently being used for State Police services.  Mr. Piper stated that the State’s Budget Resolution said they will be capped at $802 million for 2017 and the amount going to the State Police would be reduced over a 10-year period by 4% per year to get down to a new cap of $500 million. This program sets up a specific use for those dollars that are ultimately freed up.  Of those dollars, $1 billion will go to PennDOT’s County Maintenance Offices for their use providing improvements to the low-volume roads they are responsible for within their community.  Another $1.1 billion will be used for highway and bridge capital projects - $500 million on the Interstate System and $600 million for other priorities.  There is also a provision that provides a reward incentive program for counties that have adopted the $5 vehicle registration fee.  They are recommending $2 million be set aside and available for any county that has adopted that program for use in local programs - subject to a 50% match.  Mr. Piper handed out a press release and a more detailed briefing paper that we received yesterday.   
 
·         Mr. Piper stated that, effective yesterday, the Buttonwood Street Bridge project received authorization to go to “early paving” subject to weather conditions.  Paving on the bridge may be completed earlier if there are more nice days ahead.  Once the bridge is open, existing detours in Reading and West Reading will be removed.  West Reading Borough has awarded a contract to resurface Buttonwood Street between their end of the bridge to the traffic circle in West Reading.  They were not able to work out a deal using the same contractor and are trying to coordinate the two contractors.
 
·         Mr. Piper stated that the construction of the Penn Street Bridge is currently underway.  Off road work is continuing.  An early opening on the Buttonwood Street Bridge does not mean that the traffic restrictions on the Penn Street Bridge will start early.  The schedule is put together for the Penn Street Bridge.  Stage 2 cannot start until Verizon is done with utility work under the northern sidewalk area of the bridge, which would allow them to shift traffic.  They are anticipating the work will be done by the middle of May.   Following the work Verizon will be doing, the contractor will be able to place the detour signs, implement the closure of Ramp K - which is from westbound US 422 to the bridge - as well as make the switch to the one lane inbound and two lanes outbound configuration on the bridge itself.   There will be a two-week notice provided to the community before this occurs.  The traffic configuration with the one lane inbound and two lanes outbound and the closure of Ramp K will continue throughout the project, through mid-to late 2019.  That is considered Stage 5.  Stage 6 is scheduled to occur late 2019 and will consist of a different configuration for a short period of time and will only have one lane in each direction. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that there were signing changes that were made based on discussions on access to the community in terms of the detour.  Two separate signs were added for directing traffic to the Santander Arena to make sure they are aware where to go.  There will be additional signs placed identifying that using the primary detour is the main access route to Reading’s business district.  The detour will lead from the bypass in through the Lancaster Avenue interchange, across Bingaman Street and up 5th Street.
 
Mr. Piper stated that the signing on US 422 will begin a mile before the projects starts.  There are many people outside the area coming into Reading for events. If people miss the Lancaster Avenue detour, there will be a second detour opportunity.  The second detour begins at the closed Ramp K with signing that directs traffic further north on the West Shore Bypass to the North Wyomissing Boulevard interchange, then using North Wyomissing Boulevard to Park Road to Penn Avenue and across the Penn Street Bridge and into Reading.  
 
There is a relatively short-term, recurring detour over the summer months when RACC is out of session for the summer (May 15-August 15) where Front Street located under the Penn Street Bridge will be closed.  The Reading Bridges group will be meeting next week working on updated information to their webpage. 
 
Mr. Boyer stated that we are taking extra steps to bring visibility to this project by putting together an awareness campaign. As a task force member, Commuter Services will put the energy and financial backing into a billboard on westbound US 422, right before the ramp.  It is more of an early warning of the closure and informs the traveler that there is information available on the ReadingBridges.net website.
 
Mr. Piper stated that an information meeting on the Buttonwood Street Bridge opening and Penn Street Bridge work is scheduled for next week with the West Reading business community.  The downtown business community will be met with in the future regarding Penn Street. 
 
14.       ADJOURNMENT
 
MOTION: Mr. Golembiewski made a motion to adjourn the meeting.  Mr. Johnson seconded the motion and the meeting was adjourned at 3:17 PM.   
 
 
       Date:    5/4/17                          
 
                                                                           /s/Alan D. Piper
                    Alan D. Piper