More changes for Route 322?

By on August 3, 2011

By: GARY KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Could major changes to address congestion along Route 322 be in the works?

Yes. And no. But a definite maybe.

Ephrata Township Supervisor Steve Sawyer is leading the charge to get the ball rolling which could lead to an additional travel lane in each direction and turn lanes at major intersections. But that ball may take another 10 to 12 years to build up enough momentum to ever roll due to the size, scope and cost associated with such a project.

Township supervisors were supportive of the effort at Tuesday night’s board of supervisors’ meeting where a draft letter to the Lancaster County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) director of transportation planning, Dave Royer. In the letter Sawyer requests that the corridor of Route 322 running from Martindale Road in Hinkletown going west to Academy Drive be added to the MPO’s Tranportation Improvement Plan (or TIP) and 12-Year Plan. He asks for the county to add their support to the effort which has already been the topic of discussion at joint meetings held between leaders of the township, Ephrata Borough, West Earl Township and Earl Township. Representatives from Rep. Gordon Denlinger’s office as well as State Sen. Mike Brubaker’s office have also been in attendance at meetings.

Sawyer makes a compelling case that traffic studies already conducted, in conjunction with upcoming projects, indicated the corridor is already operating at or beyond its capacity limits and has become one of the highest accident corridors in Lancaster County. As a major east/west principal arterial in the county, it is becoming an alternative route to a very congested Route 23. Sawyer cites current traffic generators such as Ephrata’s downtown business district and the Walmart Superstore as well as several smaller businesses throughout the corridor.

Sawyer points to several pending projects which may only make the traffic conditions go from bad to worse. A 95,000- square-foot retail complex which is to include a Giant supermarket, a new Sheetz, an LGH Health Campus and the LCBC Church are all at various stages of becoming a reality. Site work at the new Sheetz and LCBC Church is well underway. The Ephrata Shopping Center/Giant Foods project has completed a traffic study with work on the first preliminary plans due soon. While the LGH project is taking longer than project planners initially anticipated, it nonetheless is moving forward.

"Due to the high cost of construction, utility relocation and right-of-way acquisition, no one developer will be able to fund the entire project nor can the municipalities," says Sawyer in his letter. "We have attempted to facilitate a public/private partnership to fund the improvements; however, currently there is no state legislation to allow this type of project."

The letter is garnering support from the elected bodies of each affected municipality, recognizing that without the support and hard work of each entity such a project, due to the size and cost, will not be completed. By placing the concept on the TIP and 12-Year plan Sawyer hopes to increase the chances that improvements will be made over time.

With regard to the LCBC Church project, K. Craig Smith from RGS Associates and LCBC’S executive director of facilities and technology, Jim Stuckey, P.E., were present to update supervisors on the current status of the project. An improvement construction plan was approved by the supervisors, thus clearing the way for the developer to begin site improvement. However, township solicitor Charles Sheidy recommended the church complete the process of securing a storm water easement from the adjoining property owner prior to doing anything on site which may in any way affect the other property. He also asked that the church e-mail a copy of the easement to him for review prior to signing it to assure that all township considerations had been properly addressed.

Smith told supervisors that the church cannot be constructed at this time nor can the improvements to Hahnstown Road in the vicinity of the church begin until PennDOT approval is received. Developers have been granted site access for the the purpose of construction.

"The township has been very good to work with," said Stuckey following their presentation. "It’s really hard to say that we are right on schedule with the project because so much has to happen, but I feel we are moving ahead quite well."

Benton Webber of Rettew Associates said that doing overall sight grading and getting erosion control measures into place would be a good place to start while awaiting final approvals. He added that it was necessary to finish up infiltration testing which would need to be done before work could start on the adjoining property.

"In the bigger picture, we need to secure the easement sooner or later," commented Smith.

Stuckey added that the church is very close to obtaining proper sewer approvals necessary to begin work on construction of the site sewer system. More ROUTE 322, page A4

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