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
Christopher Kufro PennDOT 5-0, Chair*
Ray Green, PennDOT Central
Alan D. Piper, Berks County Planning Commission
Ralph E. Johnson, City of Reading
Krall, City of Reading
Michael Golembiewski, Berks County Planning
Dave Kilmer, SCTA/BARTA
*Tie-breaking Vote only
TECHNICAL COMMITTEE MEMBERS NOT ATTENDING
Sroka, Reading Regional Airport
Fields, PennDOT 5-0
Roston, PennDOT 5-0
Shannon Rossman, Berks County Planning
Zdradzinski, Berks County Planning Commission
Berryman, Berks County Planning Commission
Hain, Berks County Planning Commission
Boyer, Commuter Services of PA
Royer, Rep. Ryan Mackinzie
Bernet, Rep. Caltagirone
Gombar, Senator Judy Schwank
Ortega, Congressman Charlie Dent
Loth, BOSS 2020
Ludgate, Sinking Spring Borough
Migdail-Smith, Reading Eagle
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Kufro called the meeting to
order at 1:32 p.m.
REVIEW AND APPROVAL OF TECHNICAL COMMITTEE MINUTES OF JANUARY
Chairman Kufro asked if there were and
questions or comments to the January 5, 2017 Technical Committee Meeting
Mr. Golembiewski made a motion to
approve the January 5, 2017 Technical Committee minutes. Mr. Green seconded the motion and it passed
BUSINESS FROM THE FLOOR
was no business from the floor.
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.
SINKING SPRING BOROUGH PROPOSAL FOR FASTLANE APPLICATION
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
PENNDOT REQUESTED AMENDMENTS/MODIFICATIONS TO FFY
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.
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
UPDATE ON PENNDOT CONNECTS IMPLEMENTATION
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.
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
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.
UPDATE ON RATS PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PROCESS/LIMITED
ENGLISH PROFICIENCY PLAN
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Boyer stated that Commuter Services met with the following business within the
past month: Dollar General, EDSI, Good Will, Double Tree Hotels and Reading
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.
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
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
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.
Mr. Golembiewski made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Mr. Johnson seconded the motion and the
meeting was adjourned at 3:17 PM.
/s/Alan D. Piper
Alan D. Piper