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9/10/2008
Councilman Weiner's statement in support of a Northern DE Land Use and Development Capacity Assessment-proposed amdt for Fy 2009-2012 TIP

PUBLIC COMMENT NEEDED
Public comment is needed on proposed amendments to the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for Fiscal Years 2009-2012 by the passage of the Delaware Bond Bill this June. The TIP is a four-year funding program outlining more than $1.5 billion in transportation projects in the WILMAPCO region. Transportation projects in the TIP are drawn from the agency’s Regional Transportation Plan and are selected using a prioritization process and public and agency input. Proposed new projects include funding for the Brandywine Valley and Route 9 Scenic Byways, Centreville Transportation Plan Implementation, and the C&D Canal Trail. Other amendments involve shifting the timing of funds forward or backward. The public comment period began August 1 and will extend through September 11. For more information or to submit comments, visit www.wilmapco.org/tip.
 

From: Bob Weiner
Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 3:37 PM
To: Tigist Zegeye; Heather Dunigan; WILMAPCO
Cc: 'Bob Weiner'
Subject: Northern DE Land Use and Development Capacity Assessment-proposed amdt for Fy 2009-2012 TIP


Tigist Zegeye, Executive Director
Wilmington Area Regional Planning Council [WILMAPCO]
150 Library Avenue, Newark, DE 19711 (302) 737-6205

THIS LETTER IS TO REQUEST THAT WILMAPCO, AS THE REGIONAL COORDINATING AGENCY FOR TRANSPORTATION AND LAND USE ISSUES, ADDRESS A POTENTIAL TRANSPORTATION CRISIS IN NORTHERN NEW CASTLE COUNTY.

I understand that the WILMAPCO Council is meeting tomorrow September 11, 2008 at 6:30 pm. As I am unable to attend, I ask that this letter be submitted into the record on behalf of my constituents in northern Delaware.

The four Stoltz organization proposals [Stoltz] currently pending before the New Castle County Land Use Department are located in Greenville and Brandywine Hundred. The four proposals collectively total over 4 million square feet and will draw an immense amount of regional traffic. The four projects are (1) Barley Mill Plaza site redevelopment, (2) Greenville Center redevelopment, (3) #20 Montchanin Road/old Columbia Gas site redevelopment, and (4) Shops of Brandywine Valley. All four development proposals have currently been deemed “unacceptable” by the New Castle County Land Use Department but Stoltz intends to re-file all 4 applications. See http://www.bobweiner.com/stoltz.asp and www.nccde.org for details. The scale and scope of the collective impact is greater than any other development proposals in the history of Delaware. In fact, in addition to its impact on major corridors, much of its impact will be felt in an area designated by WILMAPCO as a Rural Transportation Investment Area. It is critical that agencies such as WILMAPCO, DelDOT and New Castle County look beyond the scope of the Traffic Operational Analysis [TOA] and Traffic Impact Study [TIS] intersections currently being studied.
 
I therefore propose that WILMAPCO support a regional traffic study that assesses the land use and development capacity of this area of northern Delaware, similar to the assessment approach that led to improvements for the city of Wilmington. The study should extend along the Route 141 corridor from the I-95 exit in Newport to the I-95 exit at Route 202, north along Route 202 to the PA State Line, along Naamans Road [Route 92] to the I-95 exit, and north along Route 52 to the PA State line. Route 52, Route 48 and the "country roads" in between [on both sides of the Brandywine River] should be included in the study area.

Studies have been conducted for the Route 40 Corridor, Route 301, and for Southern New Castle County, and yet these areas lack the population density and traffic burdens of the Brandywine Hundred/Greenville/Centreville area.
 
The assessment process should also incorporate an environmental assessment (EA) element due to the rural and historic nature of the Brandywine Valley and its creek beds. The National Environmental Policy Act and Section 4f application would be highly appropriate given the Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway, Brandywine Creek State Park, and the many sites of national, state, and local significance. This expanded process would provide an opportunity to better protect the integrity of our limited roadway infrastructure and our quality of life.  The goal: new regional traffic should not utilize our country roads but instead should be incentivized to use major bike/ped and public transportation systems improvements ALONG MAJOR ARTERIAL ROADWAYS, such as those recommendations spelled out in the Tyler McConnell Bridge Project. Supportive documentation already exists from the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway and Tyler McConnell Bridge projects and would provide a foundation for a regional EA.
 
Do we want the Brandywine (River) Valley to become another King of Prussia/Philadelphia [which long ago lost the charm of its country roads], or do we want to maintain the unique charm of our Brandywine Valley? If we do not adopt a regional assessment approach and require a commitment to enforce previously WILMAPCO-recommended mitigation strategies, we will forever lose the charm of our country roads in the Centreville/Greenville/Brandywine Hundred areas, on both sides of the Brandywine River. Northern Delaware will become congested like the worst suburbs of Philadelphia. Astra Zeneca relocated to Delaware in part because this is a great place to work and to live. We can all retreat to the peace and serenity of a country setting which is no more than 10 minutes from our collective homes. In light of the 4 Stoltz proposals, we have only one opportunity to make the right decisions. Our decisions now will be irreversible forever. We cannot allow the 4 Stoltz proposals to each be considered in a vacuum. A regional approach is essential.

I recommend that WILMAPCO member agencies recommend phasing of the Stoltz projects with a requirement that the Stoltz organization pay its fair share of major bike/ped and public transportation systems improvements. The Tyler McConnell Bridge project, which would double the number of current bridge lanes is on the CTP but has no allocated funding. The Stoltz organization should be required to fund this project as a precondition to approval of any of its 4 regional projects in Greenville and Brandywine Hundred to reduce traffic on country roads.  Almost 3 million square feet is proposed at the Barley Mill Plaza site. Stoltz should be required to fund all public transportation system improvements as a condition to project approval.
 
The level of service in the traffic corridors surrounding the proposed study zone incorporating all four of the Stoltz proposals is already in or near service failure [LOS D for Route 141 including its intersection with Route 48 & LOS F for Tyler McConnell Bridge]. I refer you to the attachment. Source: DelDOT [2006 Average Annual Daily Traffic].
 
For as long as I have been engaged in the process, going back to the mid 1980's, there has been the perception that DelDOT and New Castle County Land Use Department can never say “no” to any proposal on the basis of traffic capacity. The perception is that each agency avoids responsibility for the final outcome by simply pointing its figurative finger at the other agency. The perception is that the collective mindset of both DelDOT and New Castle County is that its true collective mission, as traffic engineers and planners, is simply to facilitate whatever any developer proposes. However, with the adoption of the density bonuses and larger magnitude development afforded by the New Castle County mixed use and redevelopment ordinances, we are at a critical crossroad.
 
In the Philadelphia/King of Prussia corridor, given the magnitude of traffic congestion, SEPTA has committed to spend in excess of 300 million dollars to construct a light rail system connecting Philadelphia with King of Prussia. However, SEPTA's own studies indicate that even with this huge expenditure, the light rail system, once implemented, will be overwhelmed the day it opens and it will fail in its traffic congestion management mission.
 
With the adoption of density bonuses by New Castle County to foster economic redevelopment and mixed use, we are in a new era with both opportunities and challenges. DelDOT and New Castle County have to prove to the public that
both agencies are willing to communicate and work together more effectively than ever before. New Castle County has made a commitment via its 2007 Comprehensive Plan update to demonstrate to the community that density and compact mixed use development is essential for sound land use planning in order to avoid building more auto-dominated suburban sprawl patterns. If government fails to properly implement the vision of the 2007 Comprehensive Plan, we will give those who opposed the adoption of the 2007 Comprehensive Plan ample ammunition to win the hearts and minds of the majority of reasonable citizens who either directly supported the 2007 Comprehensive Plan or who indirectly support the concept of compact transit oriented mixed use pedestrian friendly development. If the detractors who opposed shifting from a pattern of sprawl can harness this negativity, we will lose our opportunity to implement the vision of the Comprehensive Plan. The same holds true for WILMAPCO’s RTP and Livable Delaware goals.

In conclusion:

Since the TOA and TIS processes only address intersections surrounding the proposed developments, the longer local two lane roads and arterials are neglected when in fact they will be placed under a tremendous burden. Movement of traffic does not stop at intersections - it moves along roadways! Therefore, I recommend that the WILMAPCO Council consider looking a regional transportation analysis that would incorporate all of the impacted roads between these projects. The study could take the form of a Land Use and Development Capacity Assessment so that the community is assured that the capacity of roads and extent of development are in sync with one another. I request that this topic be considered as a regular agenda item for the Council.

Due to the threat of major development abutting the environmentally sensitive Brandywine Valley and its numerous significant resources, an environmental assessment component should be part of the traffic and development assessment. Much of this area has been designated by WILMAPCO as a Rural Transportation Investment Area, meaning that little change is anticipated for transportation infrastructure (despite the obvious pressures that will be placed on it).  An environmental assessment should cover a full range of National Environmental Policy Act resources as spelled out in the FHWA Environmental Guidebook. This would include Section 4f resources of national, state, and local significance, including the Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway and resources, Brandywine Creek State Park, and the Hagley Historic District.
 
I urge the WILMAPCO Council to place this request onto its permanent agenda for further discussion. In light of the major development proposals within a small geographic area, the traffic issues facing northern New Castle County are serious and a great deal is at stake.
 
Thank you for your consideration.

Councilman Robert S. Weiner
Council District 2, New Castle County Council
Louis L. Redding City/County Building
800 North French Street, 8th floor, Wilmington, DE 19801
302-395-8362 Louis Hinkle, aide to Councilman Weiner
www.bobweiner.com    www.nccde.org 

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