Northeast Times - March 27, 2008Co
Consensus Reached on Woodhaven Rd. Extension

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Consensus reached on
Woodhaven Rd. extension

By William Kenny
Times Staff Writer

Members of the Citizens Alliance of Westwood and the Somerton Civic Association have finally reached a consensus on the Woodhaven Road extension issue.
Neither organization wants to see the latest construction plan offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation come to pass.

Speaking to the Northeast Times in the aftermath of two recent public meetings for Westwood residents at St. Andrew’s in the Field Church, CAW president Gary Peterson revealed that members of his group are strongly opposed to the current proposal. Under the new plan, PennDOT would extend the existing Woodhaven Expressway as a "parkway" style two-lane road westward from its current terminus at Evans Street through to Bustleton Avenue. The new road would parallel Byberry Road on ground acquired by the state decades ago specifically for a Woodhaven extension.

The CAW hasn’t voted formally on the new proposal, but by-and-large, residents of the Westwood section of Somerton voiced negative reactions to it during the March 11 and 13 meetings with project officials.
"The consensus at both meetings was essentially that (an extension) shouldn’t go anywhere at this point," Peterson said. "My opinion is if they build a road to Bustleton Avenue, it’s going to decimate Bustleton Avenue and eventually they’re going to have to extend (the new road)." The civic leader noted that the stretch of Bustleton Avenue from Rennard Street to Trevose Road is already overburdened with traffic and has an excessive number of disruptive traffic signals. Yet another intersection at the new Woodhaven extension just south of Byberry Road would only worsen the problem.
"It would increase it from five (lights) to six within six-tenths of a mile," Peterson said. "Regardless, it’s a nightmare now — and now there’s going to be truck traffic."

During the public meetings, project officials told residents that regardless of the outcome of the latest proposal, a low-tonnage bridge on Byberry Road spanning CSX railroad tracks west of Evans Street will be replaced. Under PennDOT regulations, no weight restriction will be placed on the new bridge. As a result, large trucks will be permitted to legally cross the bridge and travel freely in the residential section to the west of the railroad.

Naturally, Westwood residents don’t want a new bridge and are skeptical that PennDOT is obligated to erect one, according to Peterson.
The civic leader noted that project officials suggested that they may preserve an unused stretch of the Woodhaven right-of-way west of Bustleton Avenue as a park or passive green space. But folks in his organization would not accept that benefit in a trade-off for the proposed road. "We’re sticking to our guns because we’re saying we’re one community," Peterson said. "We’re not going to give up the people on the east side of Bustleton Avenue to save the people on the west side."

Project officials have said that the mission of the extension would be to relieve traffic on Byberry Road by providing east-west motorists with a new route. However, critics have noted that the project calls for a series of connections with cross streets such as Worthington Road that would allow through traffic to filter onto other local streets, including Southampton Road.

Peterson argues that increasing the capacity of the local road network wouldn’t relieve traffic congestion. Instead, it would merely attract more traffic.
Residents of Westwood, a subdivision of Somerton, have long been at odds with the Somerton Civic Association over the Woodhaven issue. But the SCA has also come out in opposition to the latest PennDOT plan.

Like Peterson, SCA president Mary Jane Hazell has said that ending new construction at Bustleton Avenue would only worsen traffic problems on that state route. Hazell believes that the survival of Bustleton Avenue businesses is at stake.

Unlike the Westwood folks, however, Hazell and her organization have endorsed building a new road that would extend west of Bustleton, through Westwood and connect with Philmont Avenue near the Montgomery County border.That would supply suburban motorists better access to the existing expressway without clogging up Byberry Road, she has said. Peterson disagrees, claiming that most of the traffic on Byberry Road east of Bustleton Avenue is "local" and doesn’t come from west of Bustleton. PennDOT officials have said that they must compile a new supplemental draft environmental impact study (supplemental DEIS).

They will schedule a formal public hearing on the new plan sometime next year.
"I think it’s a wait and see thing," Peterson said. "I don’t know what people told them except that we don’t want this." ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or