Waterford Borough Council approved this week a $2.5 million signalization plan to install a traffic signal at Route 19 and 97 north, instead of a roundabout.
In 2014, PennDOT presented two options to Waterford residents for the heavily congested and often dangerous intersection: a more than $3.3 million, 5-arm roundabout or a $2.8 million plan for two traffic signals, one at Rt. 97 and Rt. 19, and another at 97 and Circuit Road.
A majority of residents and business owners alike opposed the roundabout, citing issues with an already existing one at the south end of town.
A nearby dealership, beer distributor and other companies, were concerned the geographical implications of a roundabout would interfere with their respective businesses, as much of the area would need to be raised several feet in order to accommodate the 5-arm traffic circle.
But, after an initial borough council vote in late 2015 that preferred the roundabout, a newly-elected borough council voted Monday April 25, 2016 to approve PennDOT’s traffic signal option, taking into consideration the community consensus.
The plan approved Monday is slightly different than 2014’s proposal, in that plans for the Rt. 97 and Circuit Road traffic signal have been omitted.
“This new plan will control the traffic flow, ease of getting in and out of not only our business here but the Heritage Primary Care across the street,” said Humes dealership General Manager, Matt Clark. “[Also] the Bobcat dealership and even the beer distributor. It is not just the businesses, it’s the community. There will be no interruption in north and south traffic during the construction period. With turning lanes and signalization, sure seems to be the best for the community – less disruption, less cost. We are happy, along with the greater majority of the residents.”
Jim Carrol with PennDOT said Friday the roundabout would have required two seasons of construction, multiple year-long detours on small, back roads, and would have cost hundreds of thousands more than the less disruptive, cheaper traffic signal option.
Also apart of Monday’s plan, a widened Route 19 with designated north and south turning lanes for drivers leading in to businesses at the intersection, with a four-way stop considered at Circuit Road and Rt.19.
Carrol said the intersection sees more than 15,000 vehicles a day, and has multiple crash clusters: points where crossing traffic has the potential to collide. Carrol said this revised traffic signal plan will make the intersection safer, improve sight distances and increase capacity.
One Waterford resident who lives just a few hundred yards from the busy intersection said Friday this plan is long overdue.
“The roundabout is a good idea for the intersection that it is in [south of town], but I don’t think it’s a good idea for the [north] intersection…at 19 and 97,” said Marilyn Majewski. “The amount of congestion is very severe especially when the kids get out of school, it becomes a very dangerous intersection. I have heard the sirens go off at the time the kids are getting out of school so many times, I can’t even tell you. And it just kind of clenches your heart and makes you wonder. It needed to be addressed a long time ago, so I am glad they are finally doing something with it and I think they made the right decision.”
Carrol said the earliest possible start of construction would be in 2018, but he said it is more likely that the traffic signal project will begin in the 2019 construction season.