Northeast Times - March 20, 2008
Somerton Does U-Turn on Woodhaven Road Plan

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Somerton does u-turn
on Woodhaven Rd. Plan

By William Kenny
Times Staff Writer

The long debated Woodhaven expressway extension hit another road block last week as leaders of a local residen't group voiced strong opposition to the latest construction proposal by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Speaking at the monthly general meeting of the Somerton Civic Association on March 11, SCA president Mary Jane Hazell and other civic board members panned PENNDOT's Community Connections plan, which features a parkway style road connecting the existing Woodhaven Terminus near Evans Street to Bustleton Avenue. "I'll be honest with you, it was the worst set of plans I've seen." Hazell said. "All they are going to do is break up our Somerton area."

The SCA for years has formally supported a Woodhaven Extension that would take the road west of Bustleton Avenue and through the Westwood residential section along a right of way acquired by PENNDOT for the project decades ago. Such a project would relieve gridlock on Byberry Road and other local streets by giving through traffic a faster east-west route, they believe. Members of the association and other residents saw the latest plans for the first time during a pair of public workshops hosted by PENNDOT on March 4 and 6. Additional meeting were held March 11 and 13.

Though the civic group did not vote last week to reject or support the latest proposal, Hazell offered several major criticisms. She argued that ending the new road at Bustleton Avenue would bring more traffic to a route already burderend by daily gridlock. As a result, local businesses would suffer, Hazell said.

Meanwhile, linking cross streets including Worthington Road to the Woodhaven Extension would allow more cars to filter onto local streets like Southampton Road causing new problems for residents there. "Anybody who lives near Southampton Road, it's going to bombard them", Hazell said. The civic president also doesn't want PENNDOT to replace the Byberry Road Bridge that spans CSX rail tracks just west of Evans Street because the brige is off limits to most trucks and local children use it everyday to get to MaST Community Charter School, Hazell said.

The replacement bridge would not have a weight limit and would carry vehicles including trucks directly from the Woodhaven Expressway onto the proposed extension.

Byberry Road would end in cul-de-sacs, on both sides of the CSX tracks, so school kids would likely end up with a circuitous route from their homes to the MaST campus.

Project officials have said that the old bridge will be replaced regardless of any new road construction although they are aware of the community's opposition to truck traffic and will attempt to mitigate the problem. Hazell, fellow board member Pat Cantwell, and a new SCA member, identifying himself as Michael Smith, all urged residents to keep a united front on the Woodhaven Road issue and to fight for what they want.••

Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or