Transportation the focus of TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast

Crews prepare to unload a large steel beam delivered by truck to the Route 422 bridge project over the Schuylkill River adjoining North Coventry and Lower Pottsgrove townships. Several projects along the Route 422 corridor are underway or getting ready to begin.
Crews prepare to unload a large steel beam delivered by truck to the Route 422 bridge project over the Schuylkill River adjoining North Coventry and Lower Pottsgrove townships. Several projects along the Route 422 corridor are underway or getting ready to begin. Kevin Hoffman — Digital First Media
Traffic on Route 422 in Lower Pottsgrove is reduced to one lane as work continues. This six-year project is just one of many projects expected to improve commuting along the Route 422 corridor.
Traffic on Route 422 in Lower Pottsgrove is reduced to one lane as work continues. This six-year project is just one of many projects expected to improve commuting along the Route 422 corridor. John Strickler — Digital First Media

SPRING CITY >> Things are starting to look up for commuters along the Route 422 corridor. That was part of the message shared during Thursday’s TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce membership breakfast.

Chamber members heard from two area transportation experts at the event — Matt Edmond, principal transportation planner for the Montgomery County Planning Commission, and Rob Henry, executive director of Greater Valley Forge Transportation, a transportation management association in King of Prussia.

Edmond kicked things off his talk about improvement along the corridor — comments based on the fact that after years of delay, several important transportation infrastructure projects are currently underway or ready to begin in the Pottstown and Valley Forge areas.

The projects, which will run for varying lengths over the next several years, represent spending of an estimated $550 million.

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“Route 422 has had some needs for a very long time. And even though we have been trying to work to get money, it has been difficult. We are finally starting to see the fruits of our labor,” Edmond said.

The work is moving forward under the state’s transportation funding plan. Act 89 outlines $2.4 billion in transportation projects statewide. Edmond outlined the three projects currently underway in the Pottstown area.

The first is the bridge replacement on the eastern crossing of Route 422 over the Schuylkill River which also includes reconstruction of the Armand Hammer Interchange.

“These bridges are big; they carry a lot of cars every day. In the Pottstown area, it’s about 50,000 cars every day,” Edmond said “It may seem like a hassle, but it’s a major, major investment. There are a lot of structures that 422 goes over – roads that cross under it or over top of it. But we have to replace all the infrastructure because it’s 50 to 60 years old. The oldest part of 422 is the Pottstown bypass,” he added.

The $73.3 million project, which was started in 2012, will continue until 2018.

The second project, with a price tag of $36.2 million is the replacement of the Route 422 bridges between Stowe and the Route 100 interchanges. Edmond also said that by the end of this year, a project to realign Route 422 at the Stowe interchange will get underway.

“The S-curve in that area will get smoothed out and the interchange will be turned into a diamond interchange, which will make it easier to navigate instead of the series of ramps that are there now,” Edmond said.

Farther east along the corridor, several projects will improve commuting for drivers once they are completed.

The first is the Trooper Road interchange at Route 363.

“That’s an interchange that only goes one direction. You can’t go west to Phoenixville, Pottstown or Reading. PennDOT is fixing the interchange, making it a full interchange,” Edmond said.

Work on that project should be completed by the end of 2015.

The second project is the replacement of Sullivan’s Bridge. Edmond said the new bridge, which will cost $9.2 million will be a trail bridge and will connect the Schuylkill River Trail to Valley Forge National Park. Work is expected to be completed in 2016.

The last project Edmond discussed is the replacement of Route 422 bridge across the Schuylkill River near Valley Forge. The $150 million dollar project begins in late 2015 and will involve the construction of two four-lane bridges. It will also reconfigure the ramps to Route 23.

While the investment of $450 million into the infrastructure of the Route 422 corridor is a good thing, “there is actually a lot more needed,” according to the second speaker for the event, Rob Henry, executive director for Greater Valley Forge Transportation.

“What we do is we get involved with legislation and policy; we work with our local and federal officials on the importance of infrastructure to business and local governments,” he said.

Henry said Greater Valley Forge Transportation manages shuttles for corporations; offers tools for commuters and recognizes corporations that take proactive steps in sustainability in transportation and thinking about how their employees get to work.

Henry said there has been a massive population growth along the Route 422 corridor and an increase in traffic volume along with it.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated when the highway was constructed we would see this level of growth. And now since the recession we’re seeing the growth uptick again. Traffic volumes have increased from 50 percent to 135 percent since 1991. There’s almost nothing like that in the region,” he said.

Working with the Department of Transportation and Temple University, Greater Valley Forge Transportation has established short-, medium- and long-term goals for transportation demand management.

“The 422 Coalition is continuing to meet to discuss what’s going on along the corridor, what kinds of land use decisions are being made; what’s coming in; how do we manage that,” he said.

Henry also talked about the need in the short-term to look at creative programming at work locations — including preferred parking, flexible start time, work from home opportunities, carpooling, park and ride and van pooling.

Henry told the attendees the bike trail system currently in place is “phenomenal.”

“There are 750 miles of trails in the area, and it is becoming an example across the country,” he said.

Longer range goals include expanding municipal cooperation and improving public transit options and the use of what Henry called “shared mode” — which includes ride sharing services such as Uber.

Henry also said looking to the future, there may be more attention focused on the way funding for infrastructure projects has been done at the regional level.

For more information about Greater Valley Forge Transportation visit www.gvftma.com.

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