East Falls Local

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PennDOT Part Deux: Caught on Camera

Ummmm… Why are these people representing us, again?  (Videos have been subtitled for your convenience —  extra footage at links)

I think it’s important to give big thanks to the dozens of East Falls RESIDENTS who came out on a Thursday night to endure some public bullying for our safety. Without them, we could still be stuck in the same stalemate on Henry Avenue.

The kicker is, it’s our own local traffic committee members who were trying to block PennDOT’s plan for safety improvements on this busy roadway. Not all of them — just a minority, really. But a very vocal one with, apparently, all the time in the world to derail important projects around here.

Talk about uncompromising — committee members couldn’t even agree to take a proper vote when they met privately earlier in the week. Instead of a clear yes or no, chair John Gillespie could only offer the group’s “kind of informal group consensus (video)” on Option Five, which sounds kinda dysfunctional…

So thank you, too, Bruce Masi! PennDOT’s project manager listened to the crowd gathered, and let us know we’d been heard:

“Based on the opinion we heard today — the vote in a sense — we’re going to move forward with Option Five,” said Bruce as the room broke into applause.

But for two hours, it was “The Meg Greenfield & Ellen Kennedy Show,” as PennDOT fielded their suspicions/demands/hyperbole while neighbors called B.S. and finally pleaded for a vote.

“We’re not ready!” Meg insisted, even though the traffic committee’s been working with PennDOT on this plan for two years.

Before approving anything, Meg wanted guarantees for particulars that PennDOT could not possibly set in stone at this stage (video). Things like signage, reflectors, curb cuts, etc. are details traffic engineers need to figure out as they’re drafting, right?

BRUCE:  We need to know which plan, before we can design it.
MEG:  I can’t approve a plan without knowing its design.

Round & round they went. “You say here that you COULD do this, but now I’m asking if you WOULD do this…” Oh. My. God.

How do part-time volunteers come to think of themselves as more qualified to plan roads than engineers with degrees? Meg literally told PennDOT that they use their software wrong (video), accused them of hiding information, and dismissed their data as “incorrect.”

She even pulled state rep Pam Delissio into her demands for accident information that PennDOT is prevented by law from sharing. Although they provide a public access link where you can aggregate this data yourself, Meg demanded to see the specific stats they were using.

“What will you be able to discern from this data, Meg?” Pam implored quite reasonably.

Of course there’s no real answer. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about control.

When a neighbor later asked Meg (video) point-blank what’s her issue with approving Plan Five, Meg replied,

“My big problem is that you have a list of 25 – 50 other possibilities. Even if you reject what… is the best way to calm traffic. Which of those other possibilities are they ACTUALLY going to put in place, we do not know. And it’s not knowing that disturbs me.”

Know what disturbs me? How easily a handful of control freaks can derail progress in our neighborhood. And how shameless they can be about their own self-interests (video). Do they even hear themselves?

WTF, Ellen? We should all slow Henry Ave down because that’ll increase your property values (video)? Excuse us if we’re not all into higher taxes and more traffic for your benefit. One neighbor who’s lived here all his life said what we’re all thinking, “You move onto Henry, you move onto a highway.” (vide0)

Even neighbors on the same block disagreed with Ellen’s demands to re-engineer the road. “Some people make it sound like it’s a killing fields… but there are very few accidents,” said a resident of 22 years (video).

Indeed, most Fallsers agreed that Henry could use some safety improvements, and were eager to start with PennDOT’s recommendations. Not so fast! Meg tried to argue that the audience gathered wasn’t qualified to vote.

“I don’t think… you’re going to educate people to… where they can make a knowledgeable decision…”

Everyone got that? Seems we’re too ignorant in the ways of traffic to weigh in on local planning. Don’t worry, though — Meg’s happy to educate us thru as many charrettes and seminars as it takes to have an opinion around here. PennDOT has a new program, in fact, that she’d love to enroll us all in for this project (video)!

QUESTION: Why do other communities get to vote on traffic issues but in East Falls we have to take classes first?  Duuuuuuh… sorry, PennDOT, but we’re just too stupid here to be trusted with voting. Meg sez we need speshul skool furst…

Who has time for this? Who’s gonna spend their weeknights/weekends studying traffic circles? Waaaait… I bet I can guess…

Thanks but no thanks, guys. We all came out for the public meeting, that should be enough to vote.

You know, like, democracy..?

“You finally took a vote and the vast majority of people who listened to all of this want Option Five… and we don’t feel the need… to hamstring you…with charrettes and all of this stuff,” another long-time resident appealed to PennDOT. Over Meg’s protestations, neighbors called for a motion, which was quickly seconded from across the room.

And THAT’S how you get shit done in East Falls, folks! Pats on the back all around to neighbors who stood up and fought for progress, safety, and what it really means to be a community.

Sorry not sorry: no big fan of the traffic committee or the zoning committee or dog park or any committee, really, that takes important community decisions away from majority vote. Volunteer all you want, guys, but that shouldn’t give you more say than some of us whose lives don’t afford that luxury.

Moving forward with PennDOT seems straightforward. An audience member involved in the new Walnut Lane bridge & roundabout construction assured the audience that they are very responsive and accommodating with neighbors.

PennDOT will come through for all kinds of additions/modifications to their plans, if we’re clear about what we want, and are unified in our requests.

Aye, that’s the rub, isn’t it?

We’ll have our chance to speak up again soon when PennDOT comes back with their first draft of Option Five for community review. Hope you’ll come out to follow developments on Henry Avenue. Our voices really do make a difference.

KEEP YOUR COMMENTS COMING! Respond below or email us. Contributors welcome, too, for both online and print publication (you don’t have to agree with us, just have facts we can link to).

STOP READING… unless you care that this Henry Avenue project is not eligible for “PennDOT Connects,” (the education program that our traffic committee is pushing for, I guess they are hoping for special exception or something?):

(Looks like the traffic committee would need sponsorship & funding, too, for any roundabout or road diet plans they might wish to implement from the privacy of their non-public meetings.)

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1 Comment

  1. Brian

    Glad it seems we are moving forward with option 5. Want to see something done on this to try and make Henry safer without impacting its function as important arterial road to and out of the city.

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