Macungie wants traffic lights at Church and Main, but fears PennDOT rejection

Author: , WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published: Jun 18 2013 06:31:52 AM EDT   Updated On: Jun 18 2013 04:11:21 PM EDT
Macungie council
MACUNGIE, Pa -

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.

He said PennDOT uses 11 “warrants” in considering approval for traffic signals. “Just because a warrant is met does not necessarily mean you have to install a signal,” he explained. At Church and Main, he said only two of the 11 warrants were met.

Council tabled any action on applying to PennDOT for traffic signals. Becker said the issue will remain on the agenda of future meetings and council will discuss it again “regarding what we want to do.”

Until Lumber Street is reconstructed with a sidewalk, Joe Devine of the Devine School told council he will install a temporary pathway for children at his new school to reach school buses along Main Street, because those buses can’t use Lumber Street.

Boehm predicted that road reconstruction project won’t be completed for at least a year.

The proposed pathway will run some 1,200 feet across Devine property from the school to the sidewalk on Main Street.

Devine proposed defining the route with metal rods stuck in the ground and ropes running through them on both sides of the five-foot-wide pathway.

But by a unanimous vote, council members preferred the temporary path simply be designated using a color of gravel or cinders that will distinctly contrast with what is now on the ground on that property.

Devine said that path intentionally will be away from Lumber Street for the safety of children and teachers will escort all children to and from the Main Street bus stop.

Boehm explained children will stay at Devine School both before and after their regular school hours, until working parents can pick them up.

Beginning in September, the school will be open 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Boehm said closing on the $1 million loan will be July 9 with QNB Bank.

Also during the meeting, Boehm reminded Macungie residents that they should not put trash out at the curb before 6 p.m. Sundays for weekly pick-up.

“Some people put it out on Saturdays,” said council member Linn Walker.