Woodhaven Rd. extension
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.
wants to see the latest construction plan offered by the Pennsylvania Department
of Transportation come to pass.
the Northeast Times in the aftermath of two recent public meetings for Westwood
residents at St. Andrews 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
The CAW hasnt 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) shouldnt go anywhere at this point,"
Peterson said. "My opinion is if they build a road to Bustleton Avenue, its
going to decimate Bustleton Avenue and eventually theyre 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
"It would increase it from five (lights) to six within six-tenths
of a mile," Peterson said. "Regardless, its a nightmare now
and now theres 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 dont want a new
bridge and are skeptical that PennDOT is obligated to erect one, according to
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. "Were sticking
to our guns because were saying were one community," Peterson
said. "Were 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 wouldnt 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
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
doesnt come from west of Bustleton. PennDOT officials have said that they
must compile a new supplemental draft environmental impact study (supplemental
They will schedule a formal public hearing on the new plan sometime
"I think its a wait and see thing," Peterson said.
"I dont know what people told them except that we dont want this."
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org@phillynews.com