Hundreds of area residents attending PennDOT’s open house expressed their concerns about proposed changes to Route 222 in Maidencreek Township Wednesday night.
PennDOT set up “stations” in the Fleetwood High School to explain different aspects of the planned improvements by using satellite imagery, traffic comparisons, and a scale model.
PennDOT’s plans include the widening of Route 222 to five lanes at the Route 73 intersection and the addition of a roundabout at the intersection at Route 222 and Tamarack Boulevard/Genesis Drive.
The open house was aimed at soothing resident’s concerns about the project since many in attendance were against the proposed roundabout.
“With no traffic light, I’d have to drive three-quarters of the way around the roundabout just to get into my development,” said Maidencreek Township resident Gene Hassler, who lives right behind the CVS on Tamarack Boulevard.
Other residents questioned whether a roundabout was the best solution, given the heavy amount of truck traffic. “Hundreds of trucks use Route 222 everyday and I can’t see how putting them through a roundabout would be any safer,” said Carl Bealer of Fleetwood.
The roughly $14 million project is still in its planning stages but officials expect to be sending out bids by the end of 2014. Although changes could still be made Ron Young, the District Press Officer for PennDOT District 5, said those against the changes would need a legitimate reason for engineers to make significant changes. “We can’t change it because someone doesn’t like it,” Young said.
The current plan calls for the intersection of Route 222 and 73 to be widened to include turning lanes and a 10-foot shoulder for non-motorized traffic including horse and buggies. The intersection would still have a traffic signal and would shift slightly to preserve the historic Garden Angel Tea Room, which is situated on the corner.
Just further north, the four-lane roundabout would include a larger “central island” and a smaller “splitter island” for vehicles approaching the roundabout. A scale model showed residents how cars and trucks alike would navigate through the roundabout without the need to change lanes to exit.
One of the biggest misconceptions is the difference between a roundabout and a traffic circle.
Connecticut’s Department of Transportation Principal Enginerr, William Britnell explained the differences between traffic circles and roundabouts in a PowerPoint presentation. He said traffic circles such as the ones used in New Jersey are much larger and require motorist to yield only when exiting.
A roundabout on the other hand is much smaller, therefore reducing incoming traffic’s speed and requires drivers to merge when entering so they can freely exit without the need to merge lanes. “The smaller size and added islands of a roundabout make them much safer then the larger traffic circles that many people are accustomed to,” Britnell said.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety highlighted the increased safety that roundabouts offer. They say roundabouts have 39% less accidents than traditional intersections. Most importantly they say injury crashes are reduced by 70%.
Even after the presentation, many walked away still unconvinced by the proposed changes. “I still believe they are doing the wrong thing” said Ed Franke of Blandon.