WEST CHESTER (June 16) – State Senator Andy Dinniman called on residents to contact him with their experiences regarding the closure of the Route 23 (Valley Forge Road) Bridge so that he can personally bring their stories directly to the attention of PennDOT and Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Leslie Richards in order to push for the project’s accelerated completion.
“Since I appealed to constituents to contact me with stories about how their lives have been impacted by the closure of the Route 23 Bridge, my office has inundated with dozens of phone calls and e-mails in a matter of days,” Dinniman said. “They range from motorists frustrated with travel times that have doubled or tripled, to commuters worried about lose their jobs due to daily delays, to entire neighborhoods literally held hostage by traffic congestion, to others concerned about ambulance or fire company response in the event of an emergency.”
“These stories put a face on the massive burden this project has put on so many constituents. I hope they will help urge PennDOT to pursue any and all avenues to expedite its completion,” he added.
Crews are currently in the process of replacing the 48-year-old bridge, which spans the Pickering Creek, and is traveled by almost 20,000 motorists a day. Construction on the $1.7 million project began on April 20 and is not scheduled to be completed until late this year.
Dinniman has repeatedly called on PennDOT to expand work hours in order to finish the project ahead of schedule, as well as to provide additional resources to mitigate traffic congestion in the interim.
As a result of Dinniman’s involvement, traffic engineers recently visited the site to adjust the timing of traffic signals at key intersections to alleviate congestion issues. In addition, PennDOT agreed to provide funding for police coverage associated with the detour.
Still, Dinniman said the bridge’s closure remains a serious issue for motorists, businesses and residents of the Phoenixville area.
“There are real quality of life and economic issues at stake. This project has been, in their own words, a ‘nightmare’ for too many area residents and it must be completed as soon as possible,” Dinniman said. “Moreover, we must ensure that the better planning occurs in the future. To paraphrase one constituent who contacted me, ‘We can send probes into space, but we can’t complete a project like this in less time?’”
Excerpts from a few of the e-mails show that the bridge’s closure has a tremendous negative impact on those who use it each day, those who live nearby and many others.
“Traffic in the Phoenixville area between 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. is intolerable. A large part of this is due to the Route 23 detour … What is most puzzling is the fact that the detour routes … are also scheduled for construction projects during the Route 23 bridge replacement. Isn’t there someone at PennDOT who should be coordinating these things? When you have to detour a detour, something is wrong.”
“In the evening, between 4-7 I won’t leave my home to go into Phoenixville because of the long, long line of cars on Valley Park Road. I have also witnessed a case of almost road rage.”
“I am still diligent in my departure times, but it has become unbearable … I feel as if every commute is akin to placing a wager at a casino. You never know which route is going to pan out better and I’m noticing a physical response to the stress of the commute. In addition to the additional time spent commuting (and time away from my family), I have concerns about the increased emissions coming from idling vehicles as they wait in traffic. Our area already has poor air quality and increased congestion is not helping reduce this issue.”
“We live in the heart of the traffic tie-ups on Whitehorse Road near Valley Park Road. I can barely get out of my driveway due to all the cars backed up going north on Whitehorse from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. When I do get out of the driveway, there is a huge wait to go the equivalent of two blocks … I feel like I’ve been invaded and I am concerned should there be an emergency during prime standstill traffic.”
“The PennDOT detour sends a dangerously high volume of trucks and cars around blind corners on narrow roads at excessive speeds! How many lives will this bridge cost? … Please get this bridge finished by Fall before school buses, hurricane season and winter storms with snow and ice [that] will make the roads even more treacherous.”
“The ridiculous traffic perils that now make a five minute trip take 55 minutes, make us all think twice about going anywhere more than necessary. It is most certainly hurting our small business’ and restaurants’ livelihoods, while forcing our neighborhood to try to protect our children by putting up signs saying, ‘Drive Like Your Kids Live Here’ due to all the harried drivers racing through looking for shortcuts.”
“I worry about businesses and the loss of business they must be experiencing. I also worry about anyone living east of the closure that needs to get to Phoenixville hospital in an emergency and needs to circumvent the closure to get to the ER … I think PennDOT needs to be on that job 24/7 running three 8-hour shifts per day until the job is complete.”
“I’ve seen ambulances stuck in traffic on Whitehorse road with their sirens blaring and their lights flashing, yet absolutely cannot get by the line of traffic coming both ways. And, it’s not that drivers are not trying to pull over There just isn’t enough space between both lanes for an ambulance to pass. How is that ok?”