John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Traffic Category

$1.6 Million Available for Traffic Improvements BUT It Can't Be Spent!

Whenever new residential or business developments are proposed for Newtown, the impact on traffic is a major concern of residents (read, for example, “Newtown Board of Supervisors Shoots Down Drive-thru Starbucks” and “Super Wawa Survey Comments” and “Arcadia Green Development Hearings”).

In order to mitigate these concerns, the township collects traffic impact fees from developers to make capital improvements to accommodate traffic generated by new development. Eligible improvements include adjustments to existing traffic signals, new traffic signals, auxiliary turn lanes, etc.

Currently, Newtown has accumulated approximately $1.6 million in traffic impact fees but is unable to use those funds because it lacks an updated capital improvements plan, which is necessary for the use of those funds.

Traffic Impact Fee Advisory Committee (TIFAC) Needed

During the 2019 Budget presentation before the Board of Supervisors (BOS) on October 15, 2018, former Newtown Township Manager Kurt Ferguson brought this issue to the forefront. He discussed the urgent need to form a Traffic Impact Fee Advisory Committee (TIFAC Definition) in order to utilize the $1.6 million already collected from developers (see the video below).

As Mr. Ferguson mentioned, in order to utilize these funds, a transportation capital improvements plan must be prepared and adopted by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) to the enactment a necessary amendment to the impact fee ordinance.  According to the procedures, provisions and standards set forth in Act 209, which allows the collection of impact fees, the township must create a TIFAC to develop the transportation capital improvements plan.

Is There a Need?

According to the PA “Transportation Impact Fees Handbook”, impact fees can be used for capacity improvements to accommodate traffic generated by new development, but not to address existing or anticipated deficiencies unrelated to the development.

“As a general rule,” according to the Handbook cited above, “for impact fees to be an effective funding tool, potential should exist for development of at least 50 to 100 residential units per year and approximately 50,000 to 100,000 square feet of non-residential development per year for a minimum of five years. Municipalities that are near build-out or do not expect significant growth due to current zoning, economic conditions, environmental features, or preserved lands generally do not benefit from impact fees.”

Currently, Newtown does NOT have a TIFAC and therefore it CANNOT utilize the $1.6 million dollars in the Transportation Service Area Funds ($470,682.79 in TSA1 fund plus $1.161,472.01 in TSA2 fund, according to the September, 2018, Treasurer’s Report) established as per Act 209.

The TIFAC must be comprised of 7 to 15 members. Although an even number of members is permitted, an odd number is recommended to avoid tie votes on recommended actions to the governing body. A minimum of 40 percent of the TIFAC must be made up of real estate professionals, developers (commercial and/or residential), and building industry professionals that live or conduct business in the municipality.

The remaining 60 percent must be residents. It is desirable to have people with municipal planning experience serve on the committee, such as people who serve on the planning commission and/or other committees. However, municipal staff may not serve on the TIFAC.

Planning Commission Can Act as TIFAC

According to the PA “Transportation Impact Fees Handbook”, a municipality may appoint its Planning Commission as the TIFAC, provided that the 40 percent requirement is met. “If this cannot be met, appropriate people must be appointed to serve as ad hoc voting members of the advisory committee when the planning commission acts as the TIFAC.”

The TIFAC will coordinate with professional traffic engineers and will assess existing traffic conditions throughout the Township, develop recommendations for potential traffic improvements – such as location of additional traffic signals, and develop impact fees for future development based on potential traffic improvements.

If you are interested in serving on this Committee, please submit a letter of interest and resume to Olivia Kivenko, Newtown Township, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown PA 18940, by email to oliviak@newtownpa.gov or by fax at (215) 968-5368.

Posted on 27 Oct 2018, 01:24 - Category: Traffic

Frost Lane Traffic Study

Recently, a resident of Frost Lane complained to the Township about speeding traffic on her street. As you may know, Goodnoe School is located on Frost Lane, which the resident dubbed “Frost Freeway.” It’s a 25 mph zone and during certain school hours the speed limit is 15 mph. So any speeding on that street is a concern.

When I made an inquiry regarding this issue, Kurt Ferguson, the Township Manager informed me: "Typically these traffic issues are investigated by our staff.  We have the ability to measure traffic speed, total cars, as well as looking as site lines, etc. Typically this would be assigned to staff to investigate and to report results to the board."

Within a few days, the Police Department performed a “stealth stat” survey of the traffic flow on Frost Lane. Mr. Ferguson described how this is done at the March 14, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting:

Some of the results are summarized in the following charts:

Here are some more details:

  • On the Thursday-Friday survey period, 102 of 851 cars (12%) were going more 10 mph over the speed limit when the posted speed limit was 25 mph.

  • On the Friday-Saturday survey period, 914 of 3,096 cars (29.5%) were going more 10 mph over the speed limit. Most of those cars were surveyed on when the posted speed limit was 25 mph.

  • The school zone area was done on a Thursday and Friday. There were a total of 2,643 cars with 1,070 of those cars going over 10 mph over the posted speed limit of 15 mph.  That's obviously a concerning number.

Mr. Ferguson said the Township will do speed enforcement on selected Saturdays and during the 15 mph school zone speed limit as well.

UPDATE (June 6, 2018): According to Mr. Ferguson in the full report (here), "The two (2) signs most in need of replacement are the School "Speed Limit when Flashing" signs. Those signs are the responsibility of the school. I spoke with Doug Taylor from the school district. Council Rock is planning to update these signs throughout the Township. I would anticipate that these will be upgraded by summer."

Yesterday, I noticed that these signs have been replaced as shown in the photos below.

 

Posted on 15 Mar 2018, 14:20 - Category: Traffic

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