Welcome to the County of Berks
RATS Technical Committee May 2017 Minutes
                                                                       
READING AREA TRANSPORTATION STUDY
MINUTES OF THE TECHNICAL COMMITTEE MEETING HELD ON MAY 4, 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
Jeffrey Glisson for 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  

Scott Vottero, PennDOT District 5-0
Kerry Fields, PennDOT 5-0
Gene Porochniak, PennDOT Central Office
Jennifer Elsken, FHWA
Regina Zdradzinski, Berks County Planning Commission
David Berryman, Berks County Planning Commission
Andrea Bernet, Rep. Caltagirone
Karen Shuey, 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 MARCH 2, 2017
 
      Chairman Kufro asked if there were and questions or comments to the March 2, 2017 Technical Committee Meeting minutes.
 
  MOTION:  Mr. Green made a motion to approve the March 2, 2017 Technical Committee minutes.  Mr. Golembiewski 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 the agreements are moving forward for approval of the funding which is $30,000 each from both RATS and Lancaster MPO to go to South Central Transit Authority (SCTA) for their Transit Development Plan          .
 
         Mr. Piper stated that the agreement was processed with the Department and was approved.  We are finalizing the agreement between Berks County and the Transit Authority.  Everything is proceeding on track. 
          
5.            PENNDOT REQUESTED AMENDMENTS/MODIFICATIONS TO FFY 2017-2020 TIP
 
           Ms. Fields gave an update on Amendments/Modifications to FFY 2017-2020 Highway TIP from February 23, 2017 through April 27, 2017.
 
Amendments: There were no Amendments.
 
Administrative Actions:  There were 23 Administrative Actions.  Two of these involved the addition of all-weather pavement markings and high friction surface treatments as safety projects at various locations within the County.  The third project involved breaking out four bridges from the RATS Bridge Preservation #5 item and applying funding for their construction in FFY 2017.  These bridges are:  SR 222 over SR 3422 (Penn Avenue); SR 724 over Wyomissing Creek; SR 2034 (Oley Turnpike Road) over Antietam Creek; and SR 2039 (E. Neversink Road) over SR 422.  The remaining 20 reallocated funds within existing projects.
 
6.            SCTA REQUESTED MODIFICATIONS TO FFY 2017-2020 TRANSIT TIP
 
          Mr. Glisson stated that the FTA has apportioned 7 or 8 months-worth of the 5307 Funds.  That was done because they only had budget authority through the end of April 2017. SCTA wants to advance its application to the FTA based on the funding that is available.  The projects that are proposed are for FFY 2017.  A number of those projects are not programmed on the current TIP.  The amendments for the first four projects are proposing to be added to the TIP using 5307 funds.  They are planning to be advanced.  These include: Purchase of 5 share-ride vehicles to replace existing vehicles that have exceeded their useful life; facility upgrades at various locations; bus shelter replacements; and telephone system upgrades. 
 
 
        
           Mr. Glisson stated that Mr. Piper referred to the additional planning funds BARTA is receiving using UPWP funding.  These will also be supplemented with 5307 Funds.  The same thing is happening in the Lancaster MPO as well.  The combined TDP update will be looking at transit service in both counties. 
 
           Mr. Glisson stated that, when the TIP was updated, it was fiscally constrained to $3.6 million in federal funds.  These changes here maintain that fiscal constraint for the federal funds in FY 2017.  That is why there is an Administrative Action reducing the Preventative Maintenance Fund in order to maintain that fiscal constraint.  That $3.6 million is likely to change once SCTA would receive final allocation of funds for this region once the budget is passed this week and the FTA goes through their process.   
 
           Mr. Glisson stated that, once the final allocation of funds are received, there will be some Administrative Actions to be adjusted to match the dollars because he does not foresee any other projects being added to the TIP.  Mr. Piper asked, other than the fact that we are looking at this today, if he had any other reason to expedite this faster than going to the Coordinating Committee to approve that in two weeks.  Mr. Glisson said no because any application will be filed before the end of May in that regard.  Mr. Piper asked, if these Administrative Actions are approved, does he go back and use the old ESTIP process for transit actions.  Mr. Green said yes and Central Office will approve the modification.
 
MOTION:  Mr. Piper made a motion to forward a recommendation to the Coordinating Committee to endorse the Transit Amendments as presented.  Mr. Green seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. 
 
7.         REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATION ON DRAFT RATS PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PLAN/LIMITED ENGLISH PROFICIENCY PLAN
                   
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that these two plans were adopted in March 2014.  In that time, the population continues to change.  We had issues come up.  There were some recommendations that were made at the Federal Certification Review in October 2016 regarding how we further interact with the Latino/Spanish speaking population, how we get the word out about what we do and how we get information back. 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that there were three particular recommendations, which are addressed in the draft Public Participation Plan.  One of those was including a notification on all of our documents in Spanish that translated documents are available upon request.  We say in the current plan that we are going to do that, but have not implemented that yet.   Another recommendation was including that same notice on our website.  That is a simple recommendation to be implemented.  The third recommendation, which we will be looking at further, was trying to discern what are considered vital documents that RATS issues and having those vital documents either directly translated and available or having an executive summary created, translated and made available. 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that the last Public Participation Survey we did was in 2008.  We conducted another full online and paper survey.  There were 152 online responses; none were received on paper.  Three major questions were asked.  1) Do you know about transportation planning in Berks County? Who does it, how is it done? Who pays for it?  He said that approximately 70% of respondents said no to all three questions.  Fewer said they don’t know who pays for it.  He assumed that everyone thinks their tax dollars pay for it, which is correct.  2) How can we get information to you? We looked at everything from documents in libraries, advertisements in the newspapers versus a block ad in the newspaper, using the Merchandiser, Berks Community television, and municipal newsletters.  The responses were not surprising.  Legal advertisements in the newspaper don’t work, but block ads get more attention.  Everyone would like emails sent directly to them.  There was an opportunity to sign up for an email list right away.  There needs to be a bigger online social media presence.  Instant social media contact (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and not website contact is what people are looking for.  The Berks County Planning Commission has a Facebook page, but transportation and RATS related items go through there and not a RATS specific page.  We will consider setting up a RATS specific online page.  3) How can we get feedback from the public?  Some responses were to either send out a survey/information that we can respond directly to or let us do it through social media.  They want that instant interaction on their telephones (social media). 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated the updated Census data on language population was reviewed.  Approximately 26,000 people speak Spanish who do not speak English.  That group continues to grow.  We need to incorporate this into our documents on how we get the word to the public. 
 
         Vietnamese was the next highest group, which includes under l,000 people.  It has been assumed over the past few years that a concentration of that group lived in the city.  Census information shows that they are scattered through throughout Berks County.  There are no true concentrations.  How do we conduct outreach to that particular language group?  They need to be located within the county and have to figure out what tools can we use to reach out to that particular group. 
 
         Mr. Golembiewski stated that there were two public meetings held.  One was held at the Agriculture Center and the other one at BARTA.  There were a lot of social service providers at the meetings talking about the constituencies that they serve.  These are groups who represent transportation challenged persons like the Berks County Prison Society.  People who do not have access to a car who are either van pool dependent, transit dependent and who brought up their issues where these people are trying to get jobs is not exactly matching up with transit lines, transit schedules, and working with van pools.  It is groups like this that we need to reach out to more.
 
MOTION:  Mr. Glisson made a recommendation to the Coordinating Committee to allow staff to take these documents out for a formal 45-day public comment period.  Two public meeting would be scheduled at different times and locations with the goal of having adoption at the July 2017 Coordinating Committee.  Mr. Krall seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. 
8.            REPORT ON MAY 1-2 PLANNING PARTNERS MEETING ISSUES
 
Mr. Piper stated a Planning Partners meeting was conducted in Harrisburg on May 1st and 2nd.  PennDOT gave a report on the Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Report, which is a way PennDOT is looking at impacts from extreme weather on the highway system relating to flooding, etc.  Their final report is out and gives a lot of good mapping and opportunities for both the Department and planners to go in and take those factors into consideration in moving forward and planning projects. 
 
PennDOT is putting together an MPO/RPO Guide Book, which will be a resource regarding the role of the Metropolitan Planning Organization in the planning process. It will   explain how all of the pieces fit together in terms of our transportation planning process both on the highway and transit side. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that, regarding the Critical Urban/Critical Rural Freight Connectors, PennDOT is in the process of quality control on the materials that were sent in to make sure where all of the segments are located.  They have not yet begun to mull through those.  The interesting part was that PennDOT is allowed to add 282 miles of new rural connectors and l41 miles of urban connectors statewide.  So far, there were requests for 555 miles of rural connectors and 200 miles of urban connectors.  PennDOT must finalize the process they are going to use to narrow this down.  Once a final criterion is formed, a recommendation will be made and shared with us. We will be provided an opportunity for review and comment before it gets submitted to the Federal Highway Administration. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) is now called the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside of the STP Block Grant Program.  It is still the same program.  It covers projects regarding trails and environmental-type issues that are not the standard transportation projects.  Mr. Piper stated that advanced notice of the program will go out later this month.  The program will tentatively be announced in mid-June.  Applications will begin to be accepted on July 10, 2017.  The deadline for the applications will be September 22, 2017.  The ultimate goal is to have the projects reviewed and selected by January 2018 so they can be included into the next TIP.  These projects will be required to go through a PennDOT Connects process once the projects are recommended. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that there will be more money statewide invested in the program this time but that will not affect the dollars that we have allocated to us as an MPO, which is approximately $278,000 per year.  Local projects can also compete for statewide funds.
 
Mr. Piper stated that, in terms of overall financial guidance for the development of the next TIP, draft tables have been put together.  The Financial Guidance Work Group looked to see if there were any options available to revise the process. The state’s Transportation Performance Report stood out and said we need to invest more money in the Interstate Highway System (IHS).  The only way to invest more money is to take funding away from other programs across the state.  The determination was that the formulas used to allocate funding will remain unchanged for this TIP update.  One exception to that was in the area of CMAQ funding.  There are a number of areas across the state are eligible for CMAQ funding. They have progressed to the point that they are in attainment with the air quality standards.  While they are technically eligible to continuing receiving funds, it was accepted that the dollars currently assigned to those areas that are in attainment will be reallocated to the non-attainment and maintenance areas.  Planning areas may have those dollars programmed on their current TIP so the CMAQ funding will stay the same for FY 2019-2020. The reallocation would happen in FY 2021 and 2022.  Mr. Piper stated that, looking at the numbers, we will see a slight increase.  Less than 20% of the CMAQ dollars were allocated to the MPO’s and RPO’s that are currently in attainment.  When the dollars are reallocated using the same formula that is used now, the money is primarily going to go to Philadelphia, (DVRPC) and Pittsburgh (SPC).  We will receive more money but not that much more than we do now. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that, within a week or so, we should have the final allocations for both the highway and bridge programs and the transit funding, which will be distributed and used as a basis as we start putting together the update to the TIP and the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). 
 
Mr. Piper talked about the ROADMAP Program.  He stated that the legislature will be weaning the State Police off of some of the money they receive from the Motor License Fund.  That will gradually be reduced by about 4% per year to get from the over $800 million that it is now to $500 million per year.  Over a 10-year period, it is anticipated that will be a $2.1 billion shift.  Out of that $2.1 billion, $1 billion will be allocated to the PennDOT County Maintenance Offices to be used on roads they are responsible for maintaining.  $600 million will be given to the Interstate Highway Program.  Technically, there is new money going to the Interstate Highway Program.  Another $500 million will be applied to Capital projects on regional TIP’s across the state. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that another item that was included as part of the ROADMAP Program is a projected use of match funding for those counties that have adopted the $5 local use fee as Berks County has.  It is an opportunity to receive up to an additional $2 million worth of money from the state for use on local roads and bridges.  We need to define what is eligible for that and how to get those funds since Berks County is interested in this program.  We are looking forward to seeing an FAQ sheet, which should be coming out soon.  We need to match those bonus dollars and see what rules need to be followed to receive those dollars. 
 
Mr. Porochniak stated that it was made a point at the meeting that the money coming out from the State Police reduction will likely be weighted more heavily in the later years of the 10-year program as opposed to the earlier year.  Mr. Piper said it will start with a 4% reduction and grow from there.
 
Mr. Glisson asked when the preliminary/final numbers for the Financial Guidance come out.  Mr. Piper stated that they were waiting for corrections to be made and expects those number to be out within a couple of weeks. 
 
Mr. Green asked that, as far as to the adjustments to the CMAQ funds, what role will that play with SCTA and the MPO.  Sometimes we tend to flex funding of CMAQ for bus fleets.  What are the impacts there, if any?  Mr. Piper stated that he doesn’t anticipate much of a change.  He would expect to continue to do the same.  An emphasis coming out of FHWA at this time is we look to develop a defined process that uses those dollars and apply them to eligible projects.  We might have to redefine how we allocate those dollars.    
 
9.            UPDATE ON PENNDOT CONNECTS IMPLEMENTATION
 
Mr. Piper stated that PennDOT Connects is the new process that incorporates meeting with municipalities ahead of a project being programmed during the initial phase of projects or one that is currently in or entering the Preliminary Engineering phase.  The purpose of this meeting between the municipalities, the Department and the MPO staff is to review the scope of work to see whether or not there are opportunities to incorporate local issues that are documented in their plans into these projects.  It will make sure that PennDOT and the community understands what the scope of the project is and how that might impact the community.  It will look at bicycle/pedestrian issues, transit issues, and freight issues in the area.  One of these meetings was recently held with Hamburg Borough regarding the proposed replacement of a bridge on State Street, which is Old Rt. 22.  It helped reinforce ideas the Department had regarding how they would like to consider constructing the bridge and letting the community have input into that process and identify issues relating to when the proper time for that construction might be.  
 
Mr. Piper stated that this was the first meeting.  We are working on filling in the projects on the current TIP.  We will also be identifying new project and having meetings with those municipalities before recommendations are made for projects to be included on the 2019 TIP. 
 
Mr. Piper stated that the Department has set up a 3-phase training program.  The training from the Department and the MPO’s staff for our region was held last Friday in King of Prussia.  It explained the importance of the planning process in the overall PennDOT Connects framework, which will help PennDOT engineers understand the planning side.  The second course will be held in June and will help the planners understand the issues that go along on the engineering side.  The final training will be held in September and will be putting all of the pieces together of the process how we should be moving forward.  Mr. Piper said the first session introducing planning went well and he expects the next two sessions to go just as well.  He understands that the Department will be issuing a training program similar to the LTAP program that will go out to the municipalities to explain PennDOT Connects to them.  In the end, we will have better projects and fewer surprises. 
 
Mr. Piper said we need to send the municipality a flyer describing the program, a copy of the questionnaire and a brief description of the proposed project so they understand what they are meeting about and what to consider.  It will be beneficial if we can give them more time up front to prepare for that meeting.  Mr. Krall asked Mr. Piper who he met with.  Mr. Piper said he met with the Hamburg Borough manager and the head of their road crew for that project.  Chairman asked if he met with anyone from their Planning Commission.  Mr. Piper said no but that is an opportunity going forward.  The initial contact is made between the Department and someone from the municipality.  They have the opportunity to invite whomever they want to attend those meetings.  Chairman Kufro stated that PennDOT is relying on the MPO to help them figure out who are the right people to touch base with.  Mr. Piper stated he identified either the borough manager or secretary first, then someone from the Planning Commission.  Public Works is on the list.  The municipalities/boroughs should know the right people to bring in.  Getting them this information up front should help them know who to bring.  This is not a scheduled public meeting; just a working meeting to discuss issues.  Under the prior process, projects were included on the LRTP or TIP and then went into Preliminary Engineering (PE). During PE, a public meeting is set up.  Municipal issues were not necessarily identified until almost all of the way through the PE phase.  It is best to identify the issues up front so that they are included in the original scope of work and then develop a good project right away.   
 
Chairman Kufro stated that by having these meetings early enough, if something is decided outside of the original scope, and if funding is an issue, it gives us time to help them apply for funds from other sources.  There are more opportunities to get funding that lines up with our projects. 
 
Mr. Golembiewski stated Deputy Secretary Ritzman will be presenting the PennDOT Connects concept to County Planning Directors in State College tomorrow.  Mr. Glisson asked if the MPO had a presentation on this concept.  Mr. Piper said that Mr. Ritzman was at the Coordinating Committee meeting and gave a presentation.  Mr. Glisson mentioned that the Hamburg project is using the PennDOT Connects model.  He asked if the Planning Commission staff would be the advocates for the issues of walkability, bicycles and transit.  Mr. Piper said that, unless SCTA has an issue, the MPO would coordinate with SCTA so they do not necessarily need to attend the meeting.  In that particular case, Mr. Golembiewski looked at the transit routes and they did not go through that area.  We could touch base with SCTA in the future when we are going to do these things.  Mr. Glisson is talking about walking, bicyclists and transit fitting this process.  Mr. Golembiewski referred to the PennDOT Questionnaire and put together a checklist of items to consider.  If there is a direct impact with SCTA, Mr. Piper would anticipate either inviting them to a meeting or contacting them before the meeting. 
 
Chairman Kufro stated that PennDOT Connects covers many different things.  The big focus is multi-modal, connecting missing links and improving other things.  Mr. Glisson stated that he wants to make sure transit issues are being considered from this.  Mr. Piper will inform him when the meetings will be held and what the project covers in case SCTA needs to be represented. 
 
10.           COMMUTER SERVICES UPDATE
 
           Mr. Piper stated that this is Bike to Work Month            and the week starting May 15, 2017 is Bike to Work Week. On May l9th, there is an organized ride to work, which is co-sponsored with Reading Health Systems, Penske Shock and the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce.  It starts in West Reading at the Reading Hospital, ride into the City of Reading and back out avoiding the Penn Street Bridge this year.  The Buttonwood Street Bridge will be used instead.  Anyone, if interested, can join the ride.  Mr. Golembiewski state that it is listed on their website that if you are a commuter and you choose to use a bicycle for commuting in May, you can log your rides throughout the entire month of May on their website. You may receive prizes for participating.  Mr. Glisson stated that anyone who puts a bicycle on the bus bike rack anytime during Bike to Work Week can ride the bus for free.
 
11.           PENNDOT UPDATE ON BRIDGE PROJECTS        
 
           Chairman Kufro gave an update on the Bridge projects.  (See Attachment).  
 
           Mr. Piper stated that the SR 1003 Wall Street Bridge Replacement project was let on April 20, 2017. 
 
12.           OTHER BUSINESS
 
·            Mr. Piper stated that the Penn Street Bridge is under construction.  Beginning this coming weekend, PennDOT will begin moving to Stage 2 of the construction plan, which involves the closure of the westbound ramp to the bridge.  Inbound traffic will be restricted to a single lane and those restrictions will be in place starting next Sunday until October 2019.  If you are coming to these meeting, give yourself time to cross the Penn Street Bridge or consider another route.  The official detour route would be the Bingaman Street Bridge. We needed the Buttonwood Street Bridge completed for traffic relief.  Mr. Golembiewski thanked PennDOT for paving the eastern part of Washington Street.  Mr. Krall stated that the western half of Washington Street will be starting in a month or two.  They are waiting for UGI to finish and will be back to pave Franklin Street, Washington Street and Walnut Street.  
 
·            Mr. Piper stated that the proposed MPO Coordination and Planning Area Reform Rule was discussed at a prior meeting.  As of now, the rule is dead.  It has been officially rejected.  There is a report in the packet from Congressman Dent regarding this.  The House of Representatives voted to repeal the rule was 417-3.
 
·            Mr. Piper welcomed our new members, Mr. Gene Porochniak, from PennDOT Central Office and Ms. Jennifer Elsken, from FHWA to the Committee. 
 
·            Mr. Piper stated that we have officially lost our transportation reporter.  Mr. Liam Migdail-Smith, from the Reading Eagle, has moved on to a new job.  We will be receiving a new permanent assignment in the near future.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
13.              ADJOURNMENT
 
MOTION: Mr. Golembiewski made a motion to adjourn the meeting.  Mr. Glisson seconded the motion and the meeting was adjourned at 2:36 PM.   
 
 
     Date:   7/13/17                             
 
                                                                           /s/Alan D. Piper
                  Alan D. Piper