Macungie officials are borrowing $1 million from Quakertown-based QNB Bank to make street improvements in the borough.
Those planned improvements include traffic signals at Main and Church streets, although installation of those signals requires approval from the State Department of Transportation.
On Monday night, borough engineer Ryan Kern warned borough council that PennDOT is likely to reject traffic signals for that intersection.
Some council members want to strengthen the case for traffic lights by gathering more information regarding the need before applying to PennDOT, which will delay any action for several months.
In addition to traffic signals, the $1 million will be used for reconstruction of Lumber Street, which borough manager Chris Boehm called the only dirt road in the borough.
The owners of Macungie’s new Devine School along Lumber Street, which Boehm described as a daycare center, have contributed $200,000 to reconstruct that street, including curb and sidewalk. The borough’s share of that project will be $240,000, for a total of $440,000.
Macungie’s Cotton Street also will be reconstructed with curbs and sidewalks, plus storm drains, said Boehm. She estimated that project, which also will involve purchasing some land, will cost more than $400,000.
Council president Christopher Becker said traffic lights at Church and Main – regionally known as Route 100 – will cost about $380,000, including engineering.
Boehm said traffic lights at Church and Main will alleviate traffic on Cotton, which drivers take between Church and Chestnut to reach Main, because the intersection of Main and Chestnut has traffic lights.
Ryan said a traffic study might be done to see how many people who turn off Church onto Cotton would stay on Church to Main if that intersection had traffic signals. But he recommended no additional traffic studies be done until after Labor Day, because of schools being closed and people vacationing in summer.
Kern described Church and Main as “an off-set intersection, with a quirky geometric design.”
He said many people avoid using Church because it is very difficult to make a left turn onto Main, especially at peak hours.
Kern said Church and Chestnut streets are two of the main roads for traffic coming into Macungie from the west: Alburtis and Topton, as well as Upper Milford and Lower Macungie townships.
From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 30 -- a Thursday -- a traffic study done for the borough counted 12,689 cars, 1,006 trucks and 142 pedestrians in that intersection, according to Becker.
Becker did not challenge the accuracy of that number, but said it is surprisingly low “by at least 5,000 cars.”
“In ’04, we were saying there were 15,000 cars there.” By now, he expected that number to have increased to 17,000 or 19,000 a day.
Becker, who lives along Main Street, said traffic definitely has increased, adding: “There’s no way I would say it decreased.”
He does not believe an additional 5,000 cars drive through there overnight –between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Kern said whether or not Route 100 has more traffic, Church Street may need more traffic to justify traffic lights. “Right now, it doesn’t have a lot of traffic.”
Kern indicated the case for traffic lights is not strengthened by the fact that only three accidents have occurred at Church and Main in the last five years, none involving fatalities.
Becker and other council members believe more than three accidents have occurred at that intersection.
Kern said PennDOT only counts accidents where cars were towed or people were taken to a hospital or killed. He said fender-benders might not get reported.
But council member Joseph Sikorski said almost anyone who wants to file an insurance claim on an accident will report it to police. Sikorski too was surprised the number of accidents is so low, but believes it is fairly accurate.
Other council members indicated pedestrians have been hit in that intersection, but those numbers apparently were not included in Kern’s report.
Kern, of Barry Isett & Associates Engineering, told council the traffic study done on that intersection used PennDOT regulations to determine if the intersection meets state standards for traffic lights.