The U.S. 202 Section 700 Corridor was originally conceived as a limited access, four-lane expressway. However, as planning for this new nine-mile expressway progressed, the original $225 million estimated cost escalated to $465 million. With commitments for transportation improvements increasing across the state, PennDOT in 2004 determined that its projected funding would be insufficient to complete all its planned projects. U.S. 202, Section 700, along with dozens of other projects, was reevaluated.
A 2004 study reexamined the transportation needs along Section 700. In early 2005, PennDOT presented the “Parkway concept” to elected and municipal representatives in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Subsequent coordination and input from project stakeholders further refined the concept and produced a Community Task Force Report in September 2005 that identified the “Parkway concept” as an affordable solution to improving travel along the corridor. The concept was presented to the adjacent communities at a series of public meetings later that year to generally-favorable public reviews. PennDOT then began designing the Parkway in December 2005.
Established in early 2005, the Task Force included representatives from the 11 affected municipalities, Montgomery and Bucks County Planning Commissions, state elected officials, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the state Department of Environmental Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Charged with developing the “Parkway concept”, the Task Force held an intensive three-day workshop in June 2005 to lay out a conceptual alignment for a new, largely at-grade highway and identify key elements of its development. The Task Force then met monthly until the project was fully under construction to assist in working out the details and resolving specific issues that arose.
The “Parkway concept” initially called for construction of one travel lane in each direction through an 8.4 mile corridor that was mostly residential. However, as the project moved through the development phase, it was determined that four lanes were needed to adequately serve the commercial area between Route 63 and Route 463 in Montgomery County.
Traffic studies conducted during the project’s development showed that 90 percent of trips in the corridor were local, with traffic originating at and heading to several intersections along the corridor. Signalized intersections providing connections with these key roads were then included in the design.
PennDOT, working with the municipalities, evaluated the feasibility of incorporating roundabouts into the design. But technical analysis, along with lack of community support of the concept, eliminated the inclusion of roundabouts for the Parkway.
Aware of potential concerns about rising noise levels generated by a finished Parkway, PennDOT carefully evaluated potential sound level impacts and determined that sound walls were not warranted. However, to offset possible noise level increases, a number of “context sensitive” steps were taken for the benefit of those living near the new roadway.
As much as possible, the new road was moved away from homes and depressed in a number of areas. Existing trees and vegetation were kept where possible, and earth berms -- which can have greater sound reduction benefits than concrete sound walls of the same height -- were built between the road and residences where feasible.
The design criteria established by the Route 202 Parkway Task Force called for the road’s geometry to be flexible to minimize or avoid impacts to wetlands. By definition, a Parkway is a scenic road with trees, one that respects existing topography and integrates with its natural surroundings. Curves along the roadway help control traveling speeds by shortening the driver’s focal length and increasing driver alertness.
Landscaping is a major component of the U.S. 202 Parkway. The road’s location was selected to minimize impacts to existing woodlands and other sensitive environmental areas. However, thousands of trees and other plantings were added along the road and shared use path to help the Parkway blend with its surroundings and provide a visual barrier between it and residences.
The design of the shared use path demonstrates a balance between safety, environmental impacts and community input. PennDOT worked with Montgomery, Warrington and Doylestown townships and environmental review agencies to increase the buffer between the road and the shared use path to, where possible, avoid wooded areas, minimize impacts to natural resources, and avoid conflicts with other project features and constraints.
The trail switches sides to minimize environmental impacts and enhance connectivity to the trailhead parking areas and municipal trails and parks.
The painted bicycle lane gives bicyclists the option of traveling at higher speeds than would be possible on a path used by pedestrians, runners and those traveling at a slower pace. During the planning phase, bicycle enthusiasts expressed interest in riding with traffic rather than on the trail.
Guide rail installed along the Parkway meets PennDOT’s and nationally-accepted design criteria that takes into account speeds, traffic volumes and the existence of obstruction-free “clear zones” that allow motorists to regain control of the vehicle. In areas where the shared use path is located outside this clear zone, split rail fence was installed to provide the appearance of additional separation. In areas where the shared use path is within the clear zone, guide rail or barrier separates the road from the path.
Context sensitive incorporates design features that allow the Parkway to blend in with its natural surroundings. Landscaped berms that fit the area’s suburban and rural nature were constructed where feasible to provide visual and sound benefits. Stone form liners stained to match native stone of Montgomery and Bucks counties cover virtually every exposed piece of concrete, including bridges, culverts, retaining walls and roadway barriers. Also found on the new road are weathered steel guiderail, wooden sign posts and black traffic signal poles, signal heads and controller boxes. Wooden split rail fence, which is common to the area, is located next to the shared use path and around storm water basins.
Not easily. Any future proposals to widen the Parkway would first have to be approved by local municipalities and PennDOT, and then be approved by the Delaware Valle Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) before being placed as a “candidate project” on PennDOT’s long-range plan for funding for completion of an environmental assessment as the first of many steps that could lead to the design of a widening project.
PennDOT and the townships will monitor traffic conditions on the Parkway for several months after opening and then adjust signals as needed. Keep in mind, however, that the traffic signals are “adaptive”, meaning that their green-yellow-red cycles are activated by sensors that read the amount of traffic stopped at any given intersection and change accordingly.
PennDOT’s contractors are completing final “punch list” items and other construction tasks that either were not finished or were added after PennDOT’s “Final Inspection” of the road prior to the Parkway’s opening.
PennDOT’s Bucks and Montgomery maintenance forces will maintain the roadway, bridges, medians and shoulders. The roadsides and medians will be mowed as part of PennDOT’s annual mowing program, where a private firm is contracted to mow these areas twice during the growing seasons. The individual townships will maintain the trail and some of the planted areas, though most of the landscaping that was installed as part of the project is designed to be maintenance free after the first year.
Snow removal will be handled by PennDOT’s Bucks County and Montgomery County maintenance forces.
There are no provisions for clearing snow and ice from the trail, but municipal crews may perform this work if time and resources permit.
Enforcement of speed limits and other traffic laws is the responsibility of each municipal police department. Please contact the appropriate township with your concerns.
In order to prohibit the use of engine brake retarders (commonly referred to as “jake brakes”), a municipality must first obtain the permission of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) through a written request. If the request is approved, the municipality must subsequently enact an ordinance, as well as procure, erect and maintain the required signing. The municipality is responsible for enforcing the engine brake retarder ordinance.
The Engine Brake Retarder Prohibition Policy can be found in PennDOT’s Traffic Engineering Manual (Pub 46).
At multiple locations throughout Parkway project area, it was necessary for the shared use path to changes sides to minimize environmental impacts. These changes occur at intersections to ensure the safety of shared use path users. The No Turn on Red signs allow adequate time for pedestrians/shared use path users to safety cross the intersection before traffic movements begin.
All initial landscaping is completed throughout the project area. Currently, Sections 711 and 721 are within the year-long, plant establishment period. During this period, any plantings that do not survive are required to be replanted by the contractor. Once the plant establishment period comes to an end, PennDOT will be responsible for maintaining the landscaping; however most landscaping was designed to be maintenance free.