Tamaqua facing a 'traffic tsunami'
"It's coming, whether we like it or not." Tamaqua Borough Councilman Brian Connely repeated that several times throughout last night's council meeting, which circled back to the impending East Broad Street bridge project several times. The project, which is slated to start on May 20th and last for 18 months will close the entire block of East Broad Street to all traffic and the accompanying detours for the large amount of traffic that the area sees are daunting.
The project was first brought up during the American Hose Fire Company's annual request to hold their firemen's festival, which typically requires closing down sections of Pine and Mauch Chunk Streets. Although the request was approved, it was noted that that particular section of Pine Street is part of the slated detour. "We can't just shut down," said Connely. "These events have got to go on. It's going to be painful, but they gotta go on."
During the parking and traffic committee report, chairman Dan Evans reported that members of the committee had met with Dennis Toomey, the borough's contact with PennDOT, and walked the area and noted areas of concern. "We discussed the impacts the project is going to have," he said. "I feel a lot better about the reasons why it is happening. It was a productive meeting." Councilman Ken Smulligan, who referred to the project as a "traffic tsunami," was less optimistic. He asked for council members to meet with State Senator David Argall and State Representative Jerry Knowles. "There is going to be a lot of suffering, and they need to come up with a better answer," he said. Council president Micah Gursky said that the borough will not "hurry the discussion." "We will talk about this at every council meeting for the next few months. Connely said that the borough's goal should be to push PennDOT to complete the project in less time than they are estimating. "Even if we got it down to 14 months, anything to get it done sooner," he said.
So far, the borough has received information from PennDOT proposing elimination of parking spaces along Greenwood Street, on the eastern side from the Cedar Street intersection to Broad Street; around the intersection of Greenwood and Mauch Chunk Streets; the elimination of Sunday parking on Mauch Chunk Streets, and eliminating parking spaces on Pine Street at the intersection with Route 309. Additionally, a new meter plan is being considered for the first blocks of East Broad Street. Changes are also proposed for the intersection of Cedar and Center Streets, including the relocation of the signal bar and moving the traffic loop on Cedar Street.
In other business, Council discussed reviewing the handicap parking ordinance to accommodate permanent disabilities. Currently, any applicant needs to pay a renewal fee every year and requires a letter from the doctor. A member of the audience made council aware that some doctors charge for that service and when it is noted that the injury or condition is a permanent one, asked that this requirement be waived.
Borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt announced that the majority of borough owned items have been removed from the former community center and have been distributed to non-profit organizations or other borough groups that needed them. The only remaining items are stackable chairs. Any group that may be interested in them should contact the borough.
Steigerwalt said that three more properties have connected to the sewer, which leaves only five properties that have not complied with the requirements of the wildcat sewer project. He noted that several of the properties are not inhabited, however, none of the property owners have responded to the borough's letters or citations.
Council adopted an ordinance which establishes stop signs for westbound traffic on Locust, Chestnut, and Walnut streets at their intersection with Schuylkill Avenue.
Council also approved the 2013 street material bids, as recommended by Steigerwalt. Bids for various materials were awarded to Lehigh Asphalt and Paving of Tamaqua, R.E. Pierson Construction, of Middleport, and Pottsville Materials, of Pottsville.