UPPER MAKEFIELD >> Anyone who lives on or near the Dolington curve in Upper Makefield knows it’s a dangerous stretch of roadway.
Speeding vehicles, ignored stop signs and a bend in the road all add up to near misses, screeching tires and sometimes crashes, including a Feb. 19 accident involving a school bus and a second vehicle that left several kids on the bus and the driver of the second vehicle with non-life threatening injuries.
On March 2, residents took their concerns to the board of supervisors, petitioning the township to take immediate action to address safety concerns with the road.
Township engineer Larry Young told a room full of concerned residents that the Dolington curve is slated to be reconfigured into a three way stop as part of the two-phase, multi-million-dollar federally-funded Stoopville improvement project designed to improve traffic flow around and leading up to the national cemetery.
The first phase, which is now complete, included the installation of raised traffic islands along Stoopville; new traffic signal mast arms and underground conduits at Linton Hill and at Creamery Road; and the upgrade of the Route 532 and Stoopville intersection with the removal of a spur road and installation of a traffic signal.
Phase two, now in the design phase, will include an additional $3.4 million worth of improvements, including a traffic signal and southbound left turn lane on Route 413 at Stoopville Road; a five foot wide walking path on the south side of Stoopville from Eagleton Farms to Eagle Road and then south on Eagle Road to Marigold; a walking path from Creamery to Highland Road on the north side of Stoopville; and a right hand turn lane on Highland Road as it approaches Route 532 along with signal upgrades.
It also includes reconfiguring the problematic Dolington curve at Route 532 and Dolington Road into a three way stop intersection.
“What’s next is the design phase,” said Young. “That is refinement of preliminary engineering specifications and estimates. And getting all the permits. Then it will be the right of way phase. Anywhere we need right of way we have to go through an appraisal process, negotiate with the property owner and final acquisition. Utilities also need to be moved. And then construction.”
When asked by a supervisor for an estimated timeline, Young said it would take about two years to reach the construction phase.
“I appreciate the plans that are in place, but all of our children need the speed to be controlled sooner than two years,” responded Washington Crossing Road resident Marjorie Cottrell during public comment.
She said while she appreciates the new 25 mph signs, a hidden driveway sign and a school bus sign installed by the township, she said they have proven to be ineffective.
“Unfortunately those signs are completely ignored,” said Cottrell, who presented the supervisors with a change.org petition containing 825 signatures asking officials to make the curve safer.
Cottrell said she has noticed a definite increase in traffic and speeding along the roadway, surmising it’s from commuters opting for the free Washington Crossing bridge to avoid the new toll at the Scudder Falls bridge.
“A lot of bus drivers who drive through that intersection every day and a lot of my neighbors care so much about making this intersection safer. I think speed enforcement is a great place to start.”
Resident David Moskovitz of Old Dolington Road said making changes to the roadway “certainly improves everybody’s life here in Upper Makefield and certainly because I live right down the road from there, at Route 532 and Old Dolington Road, it would make it safer for me and my family.
“Ive lived here for three years and never knew that there were funds already allocated and work had already been done,” he said. “It makes me feel a lot better knowing steps have been done especially now because my daughter was involved (in the bus accident). Although I’m thankful she wasn’t severely injured - she had a couple of bumps and bruises and she did injure her back - she’ll be fine. And I’m grateful for that, but I don’t want that to occur to any of my other children who are younger and I don’t want that to happen to my wife or any other people who live in this community.
“We need to be safe. We need to be smart. We need to be prudent,” said Moskovitz. “But we need to move forward with purpose and we need to get things done.”
Resident John Gavin, who also lives on Washington Crossing Road, raised concern about creating a three-way stop at the intersection.
“I’m surprised there is such a plan,” he said, noting traffic already backs up from the Lindenhurst three-way stop extending past his my house and very close to the bend. “I have to weather people with their radios blaring and so on,” he said.
He suggested instead lowering the speed limit and beefing up enforcement.
“Why isn’t it posted for 25 mph going around that curve? It is recommended 25 mph, but you can’t ticket for that. I would recommend lowering the speed limit.”
Gavin also pointed to nearby Yardley Borough as an example of what can be done to slow traffic down. He said police there have created a culture where drivers know if they speed through town they will be ticketed.
“We need to create that same culture in Dolington,” he said. “The only way it can be done is if the community cooperates and helps the police officers establish a presence ... There may only be a small percentage who speed around that bend, but it is really frightening. When I come out of my driveway I don’t know if the next car is going to be one of those cars.”
Gavin said it’s not necessary for an officer to be there all the time ticketing, but “once it’s known there’s a police officer around the corner, things will change,” he predicted, offering his driveway to the police to monitor traffic.
Township manager said speed enforcement is difficult at the intersection because of the equipment local police are permitted to use. “With radar, it would be simple, but local police do not have the authority to use radar. If you want to be proactive, urge your state lawmakers to pass a bill allowing local police to use radar.”
After listening to the discussion, supervisor Ed Ford, who lives on Route 532 near Creek Bend, related his own experiences driving the road, saying he had been cut off by a car that blew through the intersection at Old Dolington Road.
“That’s one of the major problems here. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a three way stop, four way stop or a traffic light, people blow through these signs all the time. They run them all the time. They run the stop signs. They run the traffic lights all the time. That’s the bigger issue,” he said. “There is an issue there with the speed, but more than anything the issue with that corner is the same with every intersection and that’s people do not obey the traffic signals or stop signs.”
Ford said he’s not in favor of the three-way stop, predicting that they will cause “tremendous backups there. Everyone will be jockeying to beat the other guy at the intersection and you’ll have just as much trouble with that. Go up Lindenhurst and try to turn onto 532 around 5:30. There are times where the traffic is backed up down around the corner on Lindenhurst Road so you sit there for five or 10 minutes to get to the light and then you watch people blow through it because they don’t want to wait any longer. I’m not a traffic engineer. I don’t know what the answer is, but I think there are some major issues here with the behavior of certain individuals that won’t be solved by three way or red light.”
Supervisor Tim Thomas also wondered about the backups the stop signs would create. “Will it be a bigger traffic issue? I don’t know.”
Young said he’ll revisit the plan with the project manager. “We’ll take everyone’s comments and go back to the project manager.”
Chairman Tom Cino expressed appreciation to the residents for bringing the issue to the floor and encouraged them to reach out to any member of the board or the administration.
“We share your concerns and we want to help you solve the problem,” he said. “Obviously there is more work to do on this and we will certainly keep everybody updated.”