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Perry Township discusses its part in Route 51 plan

| Thursday, March 31, 2005

Planners sought public review Wednesday of a traffic study designed to spark development along Route 51 through Perry, Rostraver and Elizabeth townships.

Township and regional agencies are spending more than $50,000 on a long-range plan for the 17-mile corridor from the intersection of Route 201 to Elizabeth. The plan does not include the Perryopolis Borough section.

Each of the three townships agreed to contribute $3,500 to the planning project, while the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission contributed $40,000 through the PennDOT Land Use Initiatives program.

"The purpose of the study is to make sure what one township is doing isn't counteracting another township," said Doug Smith, an SPC transportation planner. "We want to get them together to see where they are individually, and where they are going in the future."

Administrators of the study outlined a five-point plan yesterday at Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department for an audience of public officials and business owners. The meeting was second in a series, with Rostraver Township meeting Tuesday and Elizabeth Township scheduled to meet today.

The plan includes emphases on smart growth, access management, safety enhancement, impact fees and intergovernmental cooperation.

"Smart growth is an effort to enjoy the benefits of growth and development without compromising rural, neighborhood or small-town quality of life," said Steve Stuart, a consultant with Herbert, Rowland and Grubic Inc., of Cranberry Township.

Smart growth provisions will require changes to township zoning and subdivision ordinances.

"The township wants to take a proactive approach to development," said A.J. Boni, chairman of the Perry Township supervisors. "There is some very developable land here. With this project, we will have the procedures in place to handle it."

Access management is an infrastructure improvement that controls the amount, design and location of driveways. By controlling access points, the planners aim to control the flow of traffic.

Other safety enhancements include design improvements, signal installation and changes to signal timing.

There are 56 intersections on the Route 51 corridor, including 10 with traffic signals and 46 without.

According to HRG estimates, about 138 crashes occur within the corridor each year -- a rate in line with similar Pennsylvania highways.

An unpopular aspect of the plan is the implementation of impact fees, which are paid to the townships by developers based on traffic impact. The money is used to prepare roadways for incoming developments.

"If the township wants developers, it can't penalize them for coming to develop," said Bob McKewn, owner of Image Time Inc., a Perry Township manufacturer. "However, the township shouldn't have to foot the bill for infrastructure improvements. I can see both sides."

Impact fees are the only way for a municipality to collect money from an incoming developer, according to the state Municipal Planning Code.

Intergovernmental cooperation is happening already between the townships, Stuart said. The next step is for consultants to complete the study with public suggestions for use by each municipality.

"The document will be used by these communities," he said. "It will guide the vision of what these three communities want the corridor to be. This is the first step to getting results."

The study findings will be available in June at www.spcregion.org for public viewing.

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