Lucky Route 13
by Cate Murway
PennDOT is leading the $36.5 million project, federally funded, to overhaul the outdated approximately 4.3 miles span of Route 13 between Route 413 and the Levittown Parkway.
According to safer13.com, “the improvements include pavement restoration through reconstruction or resurfacing, replacement of existing storm drainage facilities, modernization of the existing traffic signals and guide rail improvements.”
Traffic signals, pavement marking and signing upgrades may improve visibility and safety, but the addition of a 14-foot-wide center median and the building of sidewalks just may prove to be hazardous to the Route 13 businesses’ health.
Gary N. Paul, proprietor of the Bristol Blitz on 800 Bristol Pike [Route 13] in Bristol Borough, a take-out-window style ice cream shop, believes that he is strategically placed with a neighborhood right behind his shop. “There’s a one-way street and an alley behind my property.” He hopes that business “can still be good” during the construction with his walk up customers and local patrons.
Route 13 is the sentry, the front gate to historic Bristol on the Delaware.
The group of business owners believes that turning lanes providing freedom of ingress and egress would benefit all the businesses, increasing values to the properties, creating even more business and more jobs, which would in turn attract new local and outside investors in businesses.
An articulated idea is to make Route 13 exactly like Route 413, including a reduced speed limit of 35mph, but the PennDOT plan is for a median strip, a planted and landscaped strip with perennial flowers and grass!
“That will mean more equipment and employees to mow the grass and tend the flowers. Where will that equipment be stored?” questioned Mr. Paul. Additional concerns were for needless expenditures including salaries and health/ retirement benefits for these supplementary employees.
Understandably, the paved median strips dividing the highway into separate lanes according to the direction of travel, were designed to save lives but the hindered and decreased accessibility cut into many businesses’ income. Gary nodded. “It hurt me financially, but I survived.”
Road safety and speed remain a huge problem. Route 13 was installed in the early 1950’s when the area was largely agricultural but the locale has changed dramatically from those small farms.
Now the beautification talk includes curbs and sidewalks and perennial flowers and grass to slow the down the traffic.
Gary Paul is not impressed. “What? Slow down to smell the flowers?”
This bristled business owner is voicing valid concerns regarding financial hardships.
“What’s gonna look better? Beautiful median strips and all the businesses boarded up? What kind of investor would want to purchase a property that only has access to one way?”
The business, restaurant and all shop owners, as well as the North and West ward residents can address some of their concerns at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 19th in the community room in the Bristol Borough Hall on 250 Pond Street. Borough officials and local legislators will be in attendance.
Gary Paul stated, “This is my ‘pork chop hill’! It’s do or die for me.” This analogy emphasizes the excessive casualties for a relatively minor battle that became legendary in the annals of combat.
“I am the point person. I already spoke with PennDOT and the engineers [Thomas F. Kerins and Joseph M. Doubet]. This is our only opportunity. Access to both lanes is good for the economy. It’s a no-brainer!”
North ward councilman, Anthony Vincent “Tony” Devine, is a special education teacher with a son who is a West Chester University junior and two younger daughters in elementary school.
He understands the safety issues.
“The plan is to make sure all the businesses are recognized. We will do everything we can do to have a plan in place. They have to have reservations. We want to be proactive. This is what the people would love to see. We don’t want the most dangerous stretch of highway.”
Civic pride and plans for revitalization surge through the Borough. The adamant goals are to renew Bristol Borough, not the road.
Walkability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking. Factors influencing walkability include the presence or absence and quality of pedestrian rights-of-way, traffic and road conditions, and safety. Sidewalks are an important concept in sustainable urban design, but will constructing sidewalks make Route 13 pedestrian friendly?
The revitalization committee is invested in building the value and the desirability of the properties. The people who live here and need the monies to subsist have their businesses here. The community is primed and ready to provide additional unsurpassed opportunities for expansion so their outcry is predictable and vigorous.
Plan to attend the meeting on Wednesday, June 19th. This proactive stance is a statement to the ingenuity in recognizing the importance of maintaining a healthy business and residential climate in this hidden treasure of a town that reveals fascinating layers of history and culture.
Recommend a “Spotlight”. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
"So many different scenerios are presented and already my business has been impacted with the traffic jams.
If there are median strips, people won't be able to get to my business. See you at the meeting!"
CHANGE IN DIRECTION FOR ROUTE 13? Business owners press for major changes to $36M improvement project; PennDOT says major overhaul not a consideration
Thursday, June 20, 2013
By Elizabeth Fisher
BRISTOL BOROUGH - More questions than answers have surfaced in the aftermath of a meeting among some borough officials and about 25 Route 13 business owners. The group met Wednesday night at borough hall to express their concerns about the ongoing $36 million Route 13 beautification and improvement project that involves the borough, Bristol Township and Tullytown.
The project impacts the borough on the highway between Route 413 and Beaver Street, and that stretch was the focus of the meeting, called by Gary Paul, owner of the Bristol Blitz ice cream store. Paul is calling for major changes to the work, asking that, instead of the planned 14-foot grass median, that PenndDOT instead install turning lanes exactly like those on the Bristol Township stretch of Route 413.
But on Thursday, PennDOT Spokesman Charles Metzger said it was “highly unlikely” that the agency would change course because the money is already allocated and PennDOT is locked into contractual obligations for the work.
Some business owners, like Kathleen Bahr, whose family owns Dairy Deli, would like, in addition, to see traffic lights installed on Route 13 at Corson Street and at Second Avenue, a move Bahr believes would deter speeders and provide safe pedestrian crossings.
Bahr said her family members have seen numerous pedestrian accidents in front of Dairy Deli, which has operated at the site for more than 40 years.
“My sister saw a little kid hit and killed. I saw a little kid hit. There’s no place to safely cross the highway from Corson or Second Avenue, and no one is going to walk all the way down to [intersections like] Otter Street or to Beaver Street to cross the highway.
Several business owners mirrored Bahr’s concerns, saying they’ve seen too many accidents and too many pedestrians crossing at unsafe paces in the highway.
Paul and several business owners also believe that the current plans would cut into revenue, whereas turning lanes would benefit everyone because potential customers would have easier access to businesses on either side of the highway.
Paul, Councilmen Tony Devine and Patrick Sabatini, Councilman-Elect Dave Girard, and Mayor Robert Lebo attended the meeting and offered suggestions on how to persuade PennDOT to alter its plans. Paul expressed optimism, saying that in conversations with PennDOT Spokesman Charles Metzger, he was given to understand that “anything could happen.”
Paul also said that he spoke to PennDOT’s engineer, James A. Morrisey, of Philadelphia, and was told it would be possible to change direction, adding that initially, it would be more expensive, but Paul told the audience that overall, he had the impression that it could be done.
Metzger said on Thursday that the engineer told Paul that the proposed option of “just pouring concrete” for turning lanes would be very expensive because of the cost of concrete. He added that PennDOT would certainly work with business owners on an individual basis and could possibly “tweak” certain aspects of the project, but a major overhaul could not be considered.
“When this project first came up, PennDOT was just going to pave the highway and do bridge rehabilitation. But the Bucks County Planning Commission received a grant to revitalize and beautify the highway and their plans [and those of the Bucks County Transportation Management Association], along with the governing bodies of Bristol Borough, Tullytown and Bristol Township” requested the expanded work, which included the grass medians,” Metzger said.
Contacted on Thursday morning, Paul said that he believes it would be possible to remake the blueprints.
“I was a realtor and we changed contracts all the time. Even outside real estate. It’s called [creating an] amendment.
Paul’s concerns began in February, when he called PennDOT to find out exactly the scope of the project as it impacted on his business. He discovered that the plans called for the width of his property bordering Route 13 was to be lined with a sidewalk and curb, which would have prevented customers from entering the premises from the highway.
That has since been corrected but at Wednesday’s meeting, he urged all business owners to find out exactly where curbs and sidewalks are to be located. He also vowed to continue holding meetings to which PennDOT representative would be invited, he said.