Pottstown council pushes forward with bike lanes

POTTSTOWN >> The borough is pressing ahead with plans for its Safe Routes to Schools walking and bike routes despite the objections of some North Roland Street neighbors who say the bike routes will lower their property values.

The matter came up prior to a vote at Monday’s council meeting in which council vote 4-3 to move ahead with the traffic ordinance changes associated with the project, which also included changing some roads to one-way, including York Street.

Assistant Borough Manager Justin Keller explained the changes that had been discussed with some of the residents recently cannot be implemented without PennDOT review, and such a review would take too long.

The nearly $2 million in funding that will pay for the construction portion of the project, which will include sidewalk repair, will expire before a PennDOT can review and approve the changes, he said.

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Should the changes — involving reducing the visual impact of the thin plastic posts which will set the bike lane apart from the street — be pursued, the funding would expire and the project would fail, he said.

Additionally, Keller said, the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation provided $600,000 for the design of the project “and if we don’t do this project, they’re going to want their $600,000 back.”

The borough also looked at making North Roland Street one-way north, but that would have an impact on traffic on Cedar and Rosedale streets, said Keller, affecting “a couple hundred residents.”

By contrast, only six or seven residents are affected by the current plan, he said.

Councilman Joseph Kirkland appeared angered by this information, saying several times “I was under the impression that these were definite options.”

Keller repeated that “we didn’t make any promises to the residents. We said we would take them to PennDOT and PennDOT said no.”

Keller said he had only been made aware of the residents concern in December, but they were raised in some of the original meetings as far back as 2015. Keller did not become Assistant Borough Manager until August of 2016.

In addition to Kirkland, council members Rita Paez and Dennis Arms also voted against moving ahead with the ordinance changes.

“These are taxpayers, who we are elected to represent,” said Arms. “It pisses me off this is where we’re at now.”

Council also voted unanimously to hire Traffic Planning and Design, the borough’s traffic engineers, to be the “construction inspection consultant” for the project.