The Ridge Pike Open Improvement Project aims to answer questions and build relationships

Attendees at an open house for the Ridge Pike Improvement Project, to be held Sept. 7, 2023 at the Greater Plymouth Community Center, plan to survey the stretch of road from Belvoir to Chemical Roads, where the work will take place. (Rachel Ravena – Media News Group)

PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP — Safety, utility outages and “bumper-to-bumper traffic” congestion were among the concerns raised last week at a Montgomery County open house by curious residents in the Ridge Pike corridor and beyond.

Members of the public were invited to take a look at the work involved in the major ongoing infrastructure project along Ridge Pike and to get questions answered during an open house at the Greater Plymouth Community Center. The informal program focused on Section B of the Ridge Pike improvement from Belvoir to Chemical Roads.

Construction supervision officials from Montgomery County, Pennoni Associates, and J.D. Eckman were present.

A $39.18 million contract between Montgomery County and Atglen’s J.D. Eckman Inc. was approved in June to complete the project, and road work is expected to begin this month.

“This is to introduce people in the community to the people who are going to come out every day to oversee this project so they can make that connection and build that collaboration,” said Matt Edmond, the institute’s assistant director of transportation and long-range planning. Montgomery County Planning Commission, explains the open house.

Matt Edmund, assistant director of transportation and long-range planning for the Montgomery County Planning Commission, attends the open house for the Ridge Pike Improvement Project on Sept. 7, 2023 at the Greater Plymouth Community Center in Plymouth Township. (Rachel Ravena – Media News Group)

About 30,000 vehicles travel on the Ridge Pike daily, Edmond said, citing 2018 numbers. While current numbers were not available, Edmund noted traffic returning to pre-pandemic levels.

“Right now it’s a disaster. Traffic is nonstop,” said Laura Salvatore, a Philadelphia resident.

The facilities are a challenge

“The biggest project is trying to track facilities,” said Jessica Garcia, project manager at J.D. Eckman. “What sets this job apart is the number of facilities, sometimes unknown facilities, and the amount of business on both sides.”

Area residents are participating in an open house on September 7, 2023 at the Greater Plymouth Community Center to learn more about the ongoing Ridge Pike Improvement Project. (Rachel Ravena – Media News Group)

It was questions about utility outages that brought Salvatore to Montgomery County for the town hall meeting. She and her husband live just over the county-city line, and will be affected by the project.

“So we would like to know when it will end, and how long we will be without power,” Salvatore said. She was able to get some answers, noting that she was told that the time frames were “aiming for the night” to limit disturbances.

Phil Lachenmayer has lived on Butler Pike for years, often traveling to Ridge Pike. He expressed optimism about the expected improvements on the road.

“It’s huge. It needs to be done and it definitely (will) improve congestion. I think… and I hope that will be the case,” Lachenmeier said.

Lachenmeier said he wanted to get more information and was pleasantly surprised by the open house.

“This is the best thing I’ve ever seen. They’re going through different stages and different parts of the process described here,” Lachenmeier said.

Show and tell the project

Project partners were stationed next to the displays to provide more information to attendees. Structural engineer Tony Manzella said the questions he has received surround safety and pedestrian improvements.

“I think people understand the need for the project, what’s going on, and they’re excited about the changes, not the construction,” Manzella said.

People attending an open house for the Ridge Pike Improvement Project examine renderings Sept. 7, 2023 during the event at the Greater Plymouth Community Center in Plymouth Township. (Rachel Ravena – Media News Group)

While the road was paved in the 1930s, Edmond said it was last modified in the 1970s, noting that the roads and bridges are in dire need of repair.

The overall scope of the project includes several proposed plans, according to county planning officials, including road reconstruction, widening, creating a left-center lane, installing sidewalks and bus stops, “industrial road signs,” reconfiguring the Interstate 476 interchange, and removing a handlebar. Pitcher is on the way to Alan Wood.

“It is in everyone’s interest to have a project that runs efficiently and quickly and takes care of issues as they arise,” Edmund said. “So by investing in these relationships now, we hope to make it easier when we’re actually in the construction phase.”

It will take between two and two-and-a-half years to finish construction on Section B, according to planning officials. Edmund stressed the importance of “public-private partnership,” highlighting the Federal Highway Administration, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Montgomery County, and the Town of Plymouth as “funding partners.”

“This project has been on the books for about 20 years, and it’s been in design for about as long, so we’re really proud as a county to finally get this project out the door,” Edmund said.

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