Publishers Note: This post was originally published Sunday morning, April 1st and drew not only 23,151 readers but at least one irate caller incensed PennDOT would consider narrowing the County’s busiest Western Chester County highway.
By Barry Rabin
In a news conference held at the State Capitol building in Harrisburg on Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation unveiled a $45 million project to narrow the Route 30 Bypass from four lanes to two, as part of the Commonwealth’s “Outfrastructure 2018” initiative.
Local officials were taken by surprise by the announcement since the Commonwealth had been promising for years to allocate funds to widen the highway, which is perennially jammed during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
“In the last four decades, we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars to widen our highways,” said Pennsylvania Highway Department Director J. Oscar Myer, “and all it’s gotten us is more traffic, more sprawl and more headaches.”
The first stage of the plan, slated to begin in the fall of 2019, will be to remove the outer lanes between the Bypass entrance in Sadsbury Township all the way to where it connects with the Exton Bypass east of Downingtown.
What will happen next is unclear, although Director Myer hinted at some of the possibilities.
“There are a lot of things we could do with those former outer lanes. So far, we’re studying the possibility of organic farming, which is very popular these days, as well as possibly turning them into a cattle path.”
The cattle path idea would be in line with Chester County’s “Dig Up the Landscapes 2030” initiative, and special County funding might be available to help with the project.
“We’re all about history here in Chester County,” said County Commissioner Terence Farrell, “and the history of some of our most popular Chester County roads is that they were originally dirt cattle paths. I can’t think of a better way to honor our history than to dig up half of the Route 30 Bypass and turn it back into a dirt cattle path.”
Some local mass transit proponents have other ideas, including putting in a high-speed light rail line that would whisk Chester Countians quickly and efficiently to work and back along the Route 30 corridor and beyond.
“We’re definitely against that,” said P. Timothy Phelps, Executive Director of TMACC, the Transportation Management Association of Chester County.
“I believe we have already demonstrated our commitment to fast, efficient rail transportation here in Chester County by turning our actual rail lines into hiking/biking paths. Our feeling is that most people don’t really want to get to work quickly. And if their spouse is mad at them, or their small children have been throwing temper tantrums lately, they’re probably not in a big hurry to get home, either.”
One of the apparent benefits of the proposed plan is the large number of jobs it would create.
“While a highway construction project might create a few hundred jobs, we estimate that thousands of new workers will be needed in order to take out fifteen miles of concrete highway,” said Hal Laluya, the head of Pennsylvania’s Workforce Development Agency.
“The original plan had us using jackhammers and heavy equipment to remove the lanes. But we’re now looking into the possibility of going old-school, and using pickaxes and explosives instead. Pretty cool, right?”
One of the predicted benefits of the plan is that once the dirt cattle paths are restored, commuters will have many more options for how they can travel to work.
“This will mean that you can ride a horse or a donkey to work. Your choice,” said a clearly excited Phelps. “This is what we like to refer to as a “multi-modal transportation option.’”
PennDOT has scheduled a public hearing on the project for April 31st at 2:00 a.m., to be held in an undisclosed location. Interested members of the public are invited to attend if they can find it.
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