Last month, Henry Stroud of the Montgomery County Planning Commission (MCPC) reached out to us to solicit feedback on a proposed at-grade crossing of the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) in Norristown. We were contacted by Century Engineering, whose staffer took us on a walking tour of the area near the Norristown Transportation Center, at the s-bend of the trail at the bottom of the map below.
The trail is being realigned to accommodate the extension of Barbadoes St south through the parking lot of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (MCIU). Apparently, the original plans called for extending Barbadoes in a straight line that would have separated about 1/3 of MCIU’s lot from the main lot, and would have removed a few parking spaces. MCIU objected to this alignment, despite the fact that this portion of its lot is rarely used, and that the lot would still be available to its clients.
As the sketch we created highlights, we got a look at preliminary plans that show a slight alteration of the segment directly downstream of the bridge over Markley, which would transform it into a more pronounced s-curve (green) while lowering the steepness of the grade of the segment. The existing ramp down to Lafayette would be replaced with a sidewalk and stairs (green). The new segment of Barbadoes St (black) will cut across the MCIU lot at its upstream extremity and cross the trail just downstream of this new s-curve. A stormwater retention pond (blue) would be added to deal with any additional runoff from the project. A detour for the SRT (red) will be maintained during construction.
This new road was deemed necessary to provide safer access to the parcels along Washington St. Current conditions require trucks to drive up Washington to the intersection of Water St and Main St to exit the area. This has created a pinch point along Main St, with traffic that needs to turn left to enter Water St often queueing on an active SEPTA Regional Rail at-grade crossing, which is obviously quite an unsafe condition.
We provided feedback to the current plan to both Century Engineering and MCPC. In that feedback, we requested to be informed of such plans earlier in the process so that we can help brainstorm ways to avoid at-grade trail crossings. We also issued recommendations for new lighting for the corridor, that the proposed 4-way stop at the trail crossing be changed to be 2-way (in which vehicles crossing the trail would be required to stop but where trail users would not), a bike ramp for the new staircase that leads to Lafayette, and other modifications.
Construction is expected to begin in early 2019, and be completed by fall of that year. We will keep updating this story was we get more information.