Parkway East Improvement Project

Update as of February 2017:

The RSCA was present at PennDOT’s Parkway East Corridor Transportation Network Stakeholder’s meeting on January 26, 2017 at the Churchill Borough Municipal Building.  The purpose of the meeting was to inform municipalities, civic and other interested organizations along the Parkway East corridor of the progress of the study, and specifically to review the list of candidate projects to establish priorities for future implementation. At this time nothing has been decided – the study report is still in draft form pending input from the meeting and final revisions.  Once finalized, projects selected for implementation will go into engineering design development provided that funding is available.

The prior study had looked at some form of ramp monitoring or timed closings at selected interchanges (including Edgewood/Swissvale), which would have affected residents’ access to the Parkway. Based on the uniformly negative response to that concept from municipalities and civic organizations along the corridor, that approach seems to have been shelved. The active traffic management currently proposed is electronic lane signage (similar to the signage on the Liberty Bridge) which allows traffic flows to anticipate and respond to conditions on the highway. This is primarily intended for Parkway lanes but, as explained in the meeting, may be expanded to the interchange ramps (not as a means to monitor or close) but rather to alert commuters of conditions ahead, or to provide real time estimates to a destination allowing the commuter to choose whether to continue on to the Parkway or to proceed by an alternate route.

RSCA will continue to monitor the progress of the study and provide updates to the community. PennDOT also has informational websites for information and updates on the study in general and for specific information on potential improvement projects.

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This initiative of RSCA monitors developments on the new Parkway East Improvement Project. The Parkway East Improvement Project, a PennDOT initiative, consists of five stages: (1) information gathering, (2) understanding the corridor, (3) identifying needs, (4) developing solutions, and (5) implementing solutions.

Unlike a previous Parkway East study, which was centered on the concept of ramp closures and metering, this study is intended to be open-ended, with no preconceived issues or solutions.  It is designed to encourage input from a variety of stakeholders – municipal governments, community groups, and users of both the parkway and adjacent roadways – so that issues and concerns can be identified.  Ultimately any project work resulting from the study is intended to improve safety and mobility along the Parkway East and adjacent roadways. PennDOT has informed RSCA that there are five million dollars available for the future construction phase of the work through the Federal Government’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ). This funding is designated for highway work to both State and municipal roadways as long as certain criteria are met – for instance, improving air quality or decreasing congestion.

As a part of Stage 1 of the Parkway East Improvement Project, RSCA participated as a stakeholder in an interview with PennDOT as one of the many municipal government and neighborhood groups representing communities adjacent to the Parkway East corridor.  Also as a part of Stage 1, PennDOT solicited additional public input (and thus received more than 2,200 responses to an online survey) and completed preliminary traffic counts for each Parkway East Interchange. Stage 1 has been completed, and PennDOT held public meetings in May 2014 to share the results with communities adjacent to the Parkway East.

Community input will be sought at each stage of this project. We urge all residents of Regent Square to participate whenever PennDOT solicits community feedback for this project, and we will be sure to post and share future surveys here as they become available.

RSCA is encouraged by the approach and scope of this study, and by PennDOT’s effort to collect and analyze such a large amount of public input for analysis.  We remain committed to a position where residents of Regent Square, and all communities along the corridor, continue to maintain unconstrained access to the Parkway. Convenient access directly affects the desirability of this community for current and new residents, the viability of the business district, and home values.

Note: we wish to thank Victor P. DeFazio, P.E., Design Services Engineer for PennDOT’s District 11-0 Design Division for his assistance with the factual portions of this article, which originally appeared in the February 2014 RSCA Newsletter.