Regional planners learned last week that funding for a regional traffic study has been secured and they must now decide what they want it to study.
Each year, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, a semi-official government agency looking at issues for the entire Philadelphia metropolitan area, sets aside about $60,000 for use in the greater Pottstown area.
John Cover, section chief for the Montgomery County Planning Commission, said Wednesday that the DVRPC has agreed in principle to undertake the study.
Because that agency runs on a fiscal year rather than a calendar year, however, work is not likely to begin much before July, he said.
Cognizant of a spate of large housing projects moving through the planning process lately in Lower Pottsgrove, New Hanover and Douglass (Mont.) townships, the idea of getting a handle on the broader traffic impacts those projects will have has begun to take hold of the regional planning group.
The first instinct on display from the officials from Pottstown, West Pottsgrove, Lower Pottsgrove, Upper Pottsgrove, North Coventry, East Coventry, New Hanover and Douglass (Mont.) was to have the study highlight the proposed projects.
But that will already be done as a result of the developments themselves, Cover pointed out.
Wouldn’t it be better, Cover asked, to have the study identify and prioritize intersections and sections of road not immediately adjacent to a new development that nevertheless will suffer from the additional traffic a project will generate.
For example, someone living in New Hanover who wants to get to Route 100 is most likely going to drive through Douglass or Upper Pottsgrove townships. If an overworked intersection in one of these townships is upgraded, the New Hanover driver still benefits.
At first, the planners were not so sure.
“Those back roads are getting slaughtered from these developments,” said Ed Reitz, a member of the Douglass Planning Agency.
“Traffic on back roads, like Pruss Hill Road, is bumper-to-bumper,” said Lower Pottsgrove representative Tom Troutman. “Not long ago, you would have been lucky to see a car every half hour there.”
But a study aimed at improving back roads would get expensive very quickly, said Cover. Something that improves conditions for the most people for the least amount of money is where things should start, he believes.
One example on which most agreed is the intersection of Gilbertsville Road, Swamp Pike, Big Road and East Philadelphia Avenue.
Already a busy intersection, it promises to become busier when the 700-plus unit Town Center development is built just down the road on the site of the former New Hanover airport.
Cover further pointed out that the funding from DVRPC reoccurs annually and once the larger higher-volume projects are addressed, planning efforts can move on to smaller problems.
Ultimately, the planners agreed with Cover and took a vote to indicate that agreement.
Matthew Edmond, from Montgomery County Planning Commission’s transportation division, said DVRPC will probably get to work with preliminary efforts on the study in July and come out to meet with the planners “in the fall.”
Some planners also noted that President Trump has pledged a high level of federal spending on infrastructure and that those ready with a plan that affects more than one municipality stand a better chance of funding.