By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — East Buffalo Township’s Planning Commission will study revised plans this week for a proposed right-turn lane off Route 15 south, sought by CVS, a tenant in the future Penn House Commons shopping center.
“I’m very glad that the (planning commission) will be taking a second look at this issue,” said Supervisors Chairman James Buck, who noted the change in plans is at odds with a traffic impact study for the shopping center project on the former Pennsylvania House property.
Following a dustup on the project last week, revised plans will come from Douglas Gosik, vice president of J. Michael Brill & Associates, a Mechanicsburg consulting engineer firm representing developer J.C. Bar Inc., and Eric Mountz, project manager with Traffic Planning and Design Inc., of Harrisburg.
The entrance off Route 15 would accommodate a CVS pharmacy, which Gosik and Mountz said the chain store must have. Yet the right-turn lane — access from the west side of Route 15 south — is not a simple yes-or-no decision.
A Transportation Impact Study to develop the site was reviewed and approved by the state Department of Transportation and East Buffalo in 2010.
Mountz had finalized that study, which put forth that all site traffic would be handled by entrance and exit drives on St. Mary and North 15th streets, with additional access from Route 45 via North 10th and 11th streets.
In 2009, the developer asked PennDOT for a lane entering and exiting the shopping center from the west side of Route 15.
PennDOT said no.
Union County had done a traffic impact study as part of its Route 15 Corridor project, which aims to improve traffic flow and pedestrian access and safety from Beagle Club Road to William Penn Drive.
In those studies, lanes entering and exiting the shopping center from the west side of Route 15 were dismissed for safety and traffic flow reasons.
Supervisor Thomas Zorn said he’d be willing to reconsider a west-side turn-in lane “but I want to know if the county thinks this is a good idea.”
The county doesn’t.
Shawn McLaughlin, Union County’s planning director whose agency leads the Route 15 Corridor improvement project, said he told the two engineers just that.
“The right-turn-in, right-turn-out access presents a safety hazard as well as a traffic interruption,” McLaughlin said. “The more interruptions like that there are on a road, the more traffic will slow, which is counter to the corridor project’s goal.”
In fact, the Route 15 Corridor project received a $200,000 PennDOT grant to flesh out a plan and prioritize potential improvements along the corridor. In March 2012, a draft summary report of the project was unveiled.
Ultimately, because Route 15 is a state highway, it’s PennDOT’s decision.
“Whatever happens at planning commission and with the board, the main point is PennDOT could still say they don’t like the idea,” McLaughlin said. “It’s really their call to make.”
And whatever the call, McLaughlin hopes it’s the final word on the matter.
“I do not want to deal with a revisiting again of the issue,” he said. “I’m a firm believer when you take action on items and they don’t go your way, you take it and move on.”
Buck believes the developer deserves a fair hearing before the township planning commission and board of supervisors.
“It only makes sense to me,” Buck said. “If East Buffalo Township wants to make a recommendation that appears, to me, to be contrary to the instincts of PennDOT’s engineers and to some aspects of the township’s own planning documents, the matter should be considered very carefully and discussed at some length with full opportunity for public input.”