Local officials and residents attending a state Department of Transportation (DOT) informational session on planned improvements for the eastern end of Sugar Street (Route 302), including bridge replacement, have told DOT staffers of the need for sidewalks there, as well as better protection for adjacent electric utility lines that power the town center.
The DOT held the February 11 session at Newtown Municipal Center to explain the project and hear comments and suggestions on the work planned the for the section of Sugar Street that extends about 400 feet westward from its signalized four-way intersection with Main Street, Glover Avenue, and South Main Street.
DOT officials said the construction work may start as soon as the fall of 2015 and be completed within 12 months. If initial work does not start in the fall of 2015, it would begin in the spring of 2016.
The principal component of the $1.5 million construction project will be the replacement of the 85-year-old Sugar Street bridge, which crosses over an unnamed brook near Sugar Street’s intersection with Elm Drive.
The current 14-foot-long bridge would be replaced by a 16-foot-long bridge. The new bridge would be much wider than the current 28-foot-wide bridge. Initial plans call for a 43-foot-wide bridge. If a sidewalk or sidewalks are added to the project, the bridge could be wider yet.
Also, Sugar Street would be widened west of the four-way intersection to provide two lanes of eastbound traffic and one lane of westbound traffic on the new bridge. One eastbound lane would be designated for “left turns only.” The existing bridge has one travel lane in each direction.
The changes are intended to replace the decaying bridge, modernize the roadway, and alleviate a traffic bottleneck that occurs in the area, especially during the morning and evening rush periods.
The road improvements are designed to improve the sight lines of motorists who are turning onto Sugar Street from Elm Drive and from the driveway that extends to Town Hall South.
Officials, Public Comments
Borough Warden James Gaston noted the proximity of The Ram Pasture and The Pleasance to the construction area, terming both sites “pristine properties.”
Mr Gaston urged that DOT planners consider the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists in configuring the project.
Mr Gaston urged that the DOT install sidewalks along both sides of Sugar Street as part of the construction project. Additionally, he suggested that suitable nighttime illumination be installed.
Also, he urged that a mass of utility lines, which are suspended from poles, at the northeast corner of the Pam Pasture be placed underground as a protective measure to safeguard the continuity of electric service in the town center in the event that those poles are damaged by motor vehicle accidents.
Rob Sibley, town deputy director of planning and land use, explained that the town has a “sidewalk plan,” adding that sidewalks should be installed as part of the Sugar Street project.
George Benson, town director of planning and land use, said that if the utility lines at the northeast corner of the Ram Pasture are not relocated underground, the utility poles there should be physically protected with some type of guardrailing. Mr Benson noted that the electrical circuits located there serve many important public buildings.
Mary Ann Jacob, who chairs the Legislative Council, said that sidewalks and crosswalks would be an important part of the construction project. She also asked that DOT consider the need for better physical protection of utilities in that area.
Similarly, resident Wayne Addessi of 13 Lovells Lane said sidewalks should be installed as apart of the project.
Resident Robert Hall of Nettleton Avenue asked whether the construction project would result in traffic jams in the area.
DOT officials have said that a three-stage construction project would maintain two-way traffic flow in the area while work is underway.
Maureen Crick Owen asked that the DOT be mindful of the landmark status of the Ram Pasture which is adjacent to the construction site. Ms Owen heads the Newtown Village Cemetery Association, which owns and maintains the Ram Pasture.
Consulting engineer Nicholas Giardina of BL Companies, representing DOT, said that the comments made at the session will be considered by DOT officials as planning for the project progresses.
The DOT estimates that in 2012, the section of Sugar Street where the construction is planned carried about 8,800 vehicles daily.
An archaeological survey conducted in 2011 indicated that the Sugar Street project would have no impact on historic properties.
The planned construction would affect about 3,000 square feet of wetlands. Thus, the DOT will need to get wetlands protection permits from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and from the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The construction area contains many utilities, requiring that several utilities, including natural gas, telecommunications lines, and water lines, be relocated as part of the work. Two utility poles also would need to be relocated.
The existing bridge consists of a single-span concrete slab that sits on stone rubble masonry abutments and wingwalls. The new bridge will employ a prefabricated box culvert.
The project is intended to resolve the existing bridge’s structural deficiencies and its functional obsolescence. The bridge is structurally deficient due to its superstructure’s poor condition and is obsolete due to its relative narrowness, according to DOT.