NEW HOPE, PA – An additional 309 pages in environmental documentation for the I95/Scudder Falls Bridge Improvement Project is being made available for public review on the Internet and at six viewing locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission announced today.
The inch-thick Addendum to the Environmental Assessment (EA) examines the potential impacts of the traffic diversions on local roadways and adjacent river crossings once cashless tolling is implemented at the Scudder Falls Replacement Bridge.
The EA Addendum’s release launches a public review and comment period that will last until January 3, 2012. A public hearing on the new documentation is scheduled for December 15 (more details below).
Addendum Addresses Cashless Tolling
The Commission voted unanimously on December 21, 2009 to establish tolling for the new facility due to the absence of federal and state transportation financial support for the project and because it would have been unfair to apply the financial costs solely to motorists using the Commission’s seven current toll bridges. The tolling decision came after the release of the project’s original 561-page, three-volume EA document — a development that necessitated the compilation of the addendum document being released for public review and comment today.
The new documentation consists of a 65-page Addendum and an accompanying 244 pages of appendices.
The Addendum shows that rather than causing an inordinate amount of traffic to divert to and overwhelm other bridges and local roads, cashless tolling of a new Scudder Falls Bridge will help to alleviate regional traffic congestion during weekday evening peak driving periods (going from New Jersey to Pennsylvania).
The analyses also indicate that any diversions during off-peak hours will not create new traffic congestion problems on local roads and bridges. The combined improvements from the Scudder Falls project (additional travel lanes, safer entrance and exit ramp conditions) should also reduce regional traffic congestion because more motorists will use the bridge in the non-toll direction (Pennsylvania to New Jersey) during peak and non-peak hours.
Finally, the Addendum reveals that the environmental findings disclosed in the original EA document will remain valid once cashless tolling is implemented and that the toll will have “little or no additional effects on natural and human resources in the project area.
Following is a summarization of the factors that will make a tolled Scudder Falls Bridge an attractive regional peak-period travel alternative:
- Traffic currently diverting from Route 1 to Scudder Falls will return to Route 1 – The existing Scudder Falls Bridge currently serves as a diversion route for motorists (truckers in particular) seeking to avoid tolls at the TrentonMorrisville (Route 1) Toll Bridge. Once a toll is established at Scudder Falls, these current diversions will move away from Scudder Falls and to the TrentonMorrisville Toll Bridge, which will have the capacity to handle this traffic due to the widening project completed at the facility last year.
- Diverting to other non-toll bridges will be disadvantageous – The Scudder Falls Bridge’s two nearest non-toll bridges – Washington Crossing (2.5 miles to the north) and Calhoun Street (4.8 miles to the south) – already exceed peak capacity during weekday high-volume travel periods. Motorists who may attempt to use these bridges to avoid a toll during peak periods will determine that any toll savings will be outstripped by increased fuel cost, lost time, longer commutes, and increased frustration.
- An improved Scudder Falls facility will attract new users – The increased capacity and improvements planned for the Scudder Falls Bridge will eventually attract motorists away from the other nearby bridges that are currently overcongested during peak driving times. One reason for this is because the access ramps for the current Scudder Falls Bridge are so accident-prone and congested during peak periods that motorists are using the other nearby bridges as a means of avoiding the Scudder Falls bottleneck. Once a new, improved bridge facility is provided, some of these currently diverting drivers will find the Scudder Falls Bridge a more attractive travel alternative – even with a toll.
The study utilized a variety of data, available resources and industry-standard traffic modeling techniques to project what the resulting traffic implications would be once a cashless tolling facility (no toll booths) becomes operational at the planned Scudder Falls Replacement Bridge. The study examines local roads and the Commission’s other “Southerly Crossings:” the Washington Crossing Toll-Supported Bridge, the TrentonMorrisville (Route 1) Toll Bridge, the Calhoun Street Toll-Supported Bridge, and the Lower Trenton “Trenton Makes” Toll-Supported Bridge.
The study used both a $1 toll for passenger vehicles –the Commission’s current base toll rate — and a $3 toll — a purely hypothetical figure used only for examining potential traffic impacts. (Note: The Commission has yet to determine what the toll rate for the new bridge will be. It is a widely accepted industry practice to use hypothetical high/low toll rates as a means of identifying traffic impacts in traffic toll-diversion studies.)
The release of the EA Addendum is the latest development in a planning and review process that the Commission has conducted for the project under a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Transportation. The MOA authorized the Commission to conduct environmental studies and preliminary designs to address congestion and safety issues in the vicinity of the bridge.
Public Comment Period Begins
The easiest way for area residents, motorists or other interested parties to review the documentation is to go to the Web site – www.scudderfallsbridge.com — the Commission created in October 2003 to keep the public informed of project developments.
Copies of the document also will be available for viewing at the following six locations:
- Lower Makefield Township Municipal Building, 1100 Edgewood Road, Yardley, PA. 19067;
- Ewing Township’s Municipal Clerk’s Office, 2 Jake Garzio Drive, Ewing, N.J. 08628;
- The Yardley-Makefield branch of the Bucks County Free Library, 1080 Edgewood Road, Lower Makefield Township, PA .19067;
- The Mercer County Library – Ewing Branch, 61 Scotch Road Ewing, N.J. 08628;
- The DRJTBC’s Administration Building at 110 Wood & Grove Streets Morrisville, PA. 19067; and
- PennDOT District 6, 7000 Geerdes Boulevard, King of Prussia, PA. 19406.
Motorists, residents, and other interested parties who wish to provide comment on the document may utilize one of the following options no later than the end of the comment period on January 3, 2012:
- E-mail – ScudderfallsbridgeEAcomments@hntb.com;
- In writing by conventional mail – Address the envelope to Kevin Skeels, SeniorProgram Area Manager, Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, 110 Wood and Grove Streets, Morrisville, PA. 19067; and
- Attend the public hearing which is scheduled to be held 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. December 15 at the Sheraton Bucks County Hotel, 400 Oxford Valley Road, Langhorne, PA. (The site was chosen because the preponderance of peak-period commuter traffic consists of Bucks County residents going to and from jobs in New Jersey.)
The EA Addendum has undergone extensive review by the departments of transportation in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The document also was reviewed by federal and state environmental resource and regulatory agencies with regard to project findings, assessments and mitigation for a number of environmental considerations within the project limits including historical and archeological resources, threatened and endangered species, and wetlands, among others.
Announcements about the availability of the EA Addendum and details about the public hearing are being made through the project Web site (www.scudderfallsbridge.com), this press release, and advertisements in local newspaper outlets.
The I-95/Scudder Falls Bridge Improvement Project is the most expansive single capital initiative to date in the Commission’s 76-year history.
The project area extends 4.4 miles along I-95 from PA Route 332 in Bucks County, PA to Bear Tavern Road in Mercer County, N.J. The project includes replacement of the existing functionally obsolete four-lane Scudder Falls Bridge with new twin structures — one on the upstream side of the existing bridge and the other in the existing bridge’s footprint.
The new structures will have six lanes of through traffic (three in each direction) with two auxiliary northbound lanes for entry/exit travel and one auxiliary southbound lane for entry/exit travel. The project calls for full inside and outside roadway shoulders on the bridge crossing to handle breakdowns and emergencies. The two inside shoulder lanes would have the capacity to serve future bus/rapid-transit routes.
The project includes safety upgrades to the two highway interchanges at both ends of the bridge, widening of I-95 to the inside from the bridge to Route 332 in Pennsylvania, and construction of a multi-use pedestrian/bicycle facility on the bridge’s upstream span.
A “cashless tolling” system in the southbound direction would be used to collect revenues, averting the need for conventional cash toll booths. Cashless tolling (no toll booths) will be employed regardless of whether the Commission decides to carry out the project itself through a conventional design-bid-build procurement or as a public-private partnership (P3).
The Commission last year initiated the process of examining whether to use a P3 to carry out the bistate project. The Commission recently entered into a contract with KPMG and Nossaman LLP to advise the Commission on the financial and legal feasibility of using a P3 to carry out the project.
The Commission is in the midst of a comprehensive $1.2 billion capital improvement program enabling the agency to refurbish, expand and modernize its 20 Delaware River bridges and other facilities.
The Scudder Falls Bridge was constructed in 1959 but did not open to traffic until June 1961. The 50th anniversary of the bridge’s official opening was in June of this year.
The Commission was prompted to pursue the I-95/Scudder Falls Bridge Improvement Project following the release of the Southerly Crossing Corridor Study in 2000 that attributed the Scudder Falls Bridge’s congestion and operational problems to its narrow configuration, a lack of shoulders, and the close proximity of adjoining interchanges with entrance/exit ramps merging onto and off of I-95.
The bridge carried the most total traffic of the 20 bridges in the DRJTBC inventory over the past 10 years. It operates at the worst level of service (a highway capacity classification called LOS F) during peak travel periods. The bridge’s 1950s design does not meet today’s standards and it does not have the capacity to accommodate future traffic conditions. The lack of shoulders and the proximity of adjoining interchanges at both ends of the bridge exacerbate the need for improvements.
Congestion on the bridge results in average delays for motorists of 27 minutes per day. Those delays are expected to grow more severe, with traffic volumes on the bridge projected to rise above 70,000 vehicles per day by the year 2030. Enhancing safety also is a major project goal, since approximately 105 accidents occur at the bridge, its interchanges and approach roadways each year.
For more information, individuals should access the project Web site – www.scudderfallsbridge.com — or call the project hotline telephone number at 1-800879-0849.
About the Commission
The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission was formed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey in 1934. It operates seven toll bridges and 13 toll-supported bridges, two of which are pedestrian-only spans. The Commission is a self-supporting public-service agency that receives neither federal nor state tax dollars to finance its projects or operations. Funding for the operations, maintenance and upkeep of its bridges and related transportation facilities is solely derived from revenues collected at its toll bridges. The Commission’s jurisdiction extends along the Delaware River from the Philadelphia-Bucks County line north to the New Jersey/New York border. The bridges carried more than 139 million cars and trucks in 2010. For more information about the Commission and its various initiatives to deliver safer and more convenient bridge travel for its customers, please see: www.drjtbc.org.