As of July 20, 2023 – almost 3 years after contracts were signed – most of the work on the million-dollar plus Lower Dolington Road Multi-Use Trail (LDRT) has been completed.
Of Course, Safety First!
A resident of Newtown Borough who plans to move to Friends Village (FV) on Lower Dolington Road (LDR) in the township this summer was “totally excited with completion of the walking path on Lower Dolington road.” However, in an email to the township, she was concerned that newly-installed metal guardrails (aka “guiderails”) would be a “barrier” preventing direct access to the walking path from the FV driveway (see image)!
I decided to see for myself and observed that metal guardrails were installed at two locations: (1) 200 L.F. stretch just north of Stanford Place/Road (see image) and (2) 400 L.F. stretch just north of Everett Drive. Location #1 is the stretch that was claimed to be a barrier preventing access to the trail from the FV driveway.
It was pointed out, however, that crossing LDR at that location would be very dangerous – cars move very quickly along that stretch of road. The CEO of FV explained that there will be a well-marked crosswalk at Stanford Place, which is on the southern border of the Styer campus. “Direct access from near the FV driveway was never part of the plan,” the CEO explained. “We will need to improve the access from the FV meadow to the corner/crosswalk.”
But Why Metal and Not Wood?
Other residents were surprised that wooden guardrails were not used as opposed to metal ones, which seem more appropriate for major highways where cars travel much faster than the 35 MPH limit of LDR. There was also the issue that the metal guardrails were not in keeping with the country/rustic appeal of the area.
These concerns of residents got me to do some research on how it was decided to use metal guardrails versus wooden ones. I did not recall any discussion about the type of guardrails to be installed and just thought that for pedestrian safety reasons it was a good idea to include guardrails. I never once gave much though to the type of guardrail to be used.
My research revealed that the estimated cost of the metal guardrails – according to a recent payment document – is $93,100. Meanwhile, a 2020 “Preliminary Cost Estimate,” which I believe was distributed to the Board of Supervisors (BOS), included wooden guardrails for an estimated cost of $24,000!
Why the Change? Is the Increased Cost Justified?
A resident of Woods of Saxony posed the same questions in an email he sent to the BOS, Township Manager, and Township Engineer:
“As it [LDRT] is coming to completion, the townships (sic) engineering firm hired a contractor to install metal guardrails on two sides of Lower Dolington. These guardrails are similar to what would be utilized on a highway or interstate where people are traveling at a high rate of speed, not in a rural setting. If it was a safety concern, then they would have likely put rails along the entire walking path.
“I was under the impression as well as many of my neighbors in The Woods of Saxony that they would be utilizing wooden rails which would be appropriate for the country surroundings [see image on left]. Also, per The Grant Application Documents, the wooden rails were cited at an approximate cost of $24k versus implementing metal guardrails at an estimated $93k [source “LDRT Project Timeline”]. Essentially, I am not clear on why the township would spend more money on PennDOT highway metal guardrails, rather than wooden rails.
“In closure, please let me know who authorized the final decision to change the initial plan at an additional $70k to the taxpayers? This when several of our area roads are in need of paving…”
Resident Input Is Key!
All this proves to me that resident input is essential in projects such as trails. Perhaps if the township held more meetings to specifically discuss the project details with residents, these concerns could have been dealt with before barreling ahead with construction.
Posted on 27 Jul 2023, 12:46 - Category: Public Safety