LOWER MAKEFIELD >> There is light at the end of the tunnel for residents inconvenienced by the closure of Sandy Run Road four years ago.
On Nov. 18, the board of supervisors voted unanimously to authorize Michael Baker International to proceed with the design for a long-awaited road project that will reopen Sandy Run Road sometime next spring.
For safety reasons, the township closed Sandy Run Road at Edgewood Road in January 2017 after a site inspection determined there was insufficient sight and stopping distance at the intersection of Sandy Run and Edgewood Roads due to changes made in elevation to the nearby railroad crossing.
Since then, the township has been working with its professionals to find a workable solution to safely reopen the road.
If final designs are approved by the supervisors at its Dec. 16 meeting, the board could authorize its consultants to proceed to the bidding phase with construction slated for sometime next spring.
Representatives from Michael Baker International Inc., which was hired by the township in May to design the project, were on hand to detail its plans during the supervisors’ November 18 Zoom meeting.
“The main purpose is to get Sandy Run Road at Edgewood reopened. It is currently closed due to inadequate site distance,” explained engineer Bill Torr from Michael Baker. “The intent is to bid the project over the winter with a spring 2021 installation.”
The proposed project is designed to reopen Sandy Run Road to right turns in and right turns out at Edgewood Road by building two mini-roundabouts - one at Schuyler Drive and one at Mill Road - that would allow Sandy Run traffic to double back without having to take a two mile detour or risk collisions due to sight distance issues.
At Sandy Run and Edgewood, channelized islands would be installed that would force traffic exiting from Sandy Run and entering Sandy Run from Edgewood to make right turns only.
In addition, an existing full reveal three foot wide curb median would be extended 150 feet to the west on Edgewood Road to just past Sandy Run Road to fully block left turns from Edgewood and Sandy Run. The supervisors choose that option over a full jersey barrier wall, which board members found unsightly.
The roundabouts being planned are smaller in diameter than traditional roundabouts. “They have traversable center islands that can be driven over,” said Torr. “They require minimal or no roadway widening and they fit mostly within the roadway envelope. At Schuyler we will have no proposed widening. And at Mill we will have just a bit of widening on the southeast corner.”
At each roundabout, Torr said there will be handicapped ramps and safe pedestrian connections.
Supervisor Dan Grenier asked about the possibility of a little rain garden in the center island.
The consultants, however, said that wouldn’t work since larger trucks will need to cross over portions of the center island as they are making their way around the circle.
“We’re trying to balance the short term and the long term solution here,” said Chris Stanford from Michael Baker. “We want to put something in here that’s going to have some longevity and can take traffic loading, but at the same time we understand the potential to go to a long term solution.”
Continuing the discussion on the roundabouts, the consultants asked the supervisors to decide between color-stamped asphalt or concrete for the raised roundabout islands.
The supervisors said they are leaning toward the concrete, which the consultants said is longer lasting and would hold up better under the truck traffic that will be crossing over it.
But they recommended that a bid alternate be included for both the asphalt and concrete options “so we can make a sound financial decision,” said Supervisor James McCartney.
The project also includes extending a bituminous bike path on Edgewood to Schuyler and incorporating pedestrian crossings into the design of the roundabout.
Torr was unable to provide a cost figure since the project is still being designed, but earlier estimates by the township’s traffic engineer Joe Fiocco from SAFE Highway Engineering LLC of Trevose estimated engineering and construction of the roundabouts and the barriers at about $540,000.
That figure is considerably cheaper than a previous engineering plan that called for shifting the Sandy Run Road intersection to the west to provide greater site and stopping distance from the railroad crossing.
In addition to allowing Sandy Run Road traffic to double back, the roundabouts would act as a traffic calming measure and slow traffic down to 25 mph - the minimum speed needed to allow traffic to safely make left turns in and out of Sandy Run Road at Edgewood.
“If we get that speed down to 25 we could consider this a permanent solution,” said Fiocco.
The goal, said Township Manager Kurt Ferguson, is to have construction of the project completed in the spring and Sandy Run reopened.
Construction of the project is expected to take a little more than a month to complete, including two weeks for the construction of the Schuyler Road roundabout and the Sandy Run Road improvements and three weeks to construct the Mill Road roundabout.
“If we get some nice warm weather in the spring ideally this could be done on the shorter end of that spectrum,” said Torr. “We always build in a little buffer because the weather never fully cooperates.”
In June 2018, the supervisors took action on two fronts to address the Sandy Run Road closure, which has caused inconvenience and headaches for local residents for nearly four years now.
On the legal side, the supervisors voted 5-0 to authorize counsel to move forward with litigation against any party that might be held legally responsible for the road closure and the cost to remedy the problem.
The supervisors also voted 5-0 in 2018 to authorize its traffic engineer to look at two options to fix the problem - shifting the Sandy Run Road intersection to the west to create greater sight distance and building permanent chicanes to slow traffic on Edgewood - or the alternative, ending Sandy Run in a cul-du-sac near Edgewood Road.
The latest, less costly plan for mini-roundabouts was proposed in December 2019 by the township’s new traffic engineer. It has since been vetted by the township’s Citizens Traffic Advisory Board, which unanimously recommended that the supervisors move forward with the idea.