Local road updates

PennDOT representative shares current and upcoming projects for Bensalem Township

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Robert Graham. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

Longtime residents of Bensalem Township are especially savvy when it comes to navigating the not-so-perfect roads of their community. They know to avoid the always-flooded State Road like the plague during a torrential storm, and smoothly swerve their cars to bypass bumps and potholes along Hulmeville Road.

But it won’t have to be like this much longer.

On the evening of Thursday, May 9, several dozen locals convened at Philadelphia Christian Center, located at 2990 Street Road, Bensalem, for the monthly meeting of the Bensalem Business Directory, a nonprofit networking organization founded in 2015 by Pondeli Hajioannou, owner of Philadelphia Private Gym.

The special guest at the meeting was Robert Graham, who serves as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s assistant county manager for Bensalem. According to Hajioannou, he has been diligently trying for three years to have a PennDOT representative attend a meeting, and was finally able to do so with the help of Rep. Gene DiGirolamo.

At 6:30 p.m., Graham, who boasts 24 years experience with PennDOT, dived into a slew of current and upcoming projects for the township.

By summer of 2020, a number of roads will be paved. These include Hulmeville Road from Street Road all the way up to Business Route 1; the full length of Mill Road; State Road from Station Avenue to the Otter Street bridge in Bristol Township; and Cedar Avenue. Paving will also be completed along all of Lincoln Highway. PennDOT has started this process outside of Penndel, and will wrap up in Bensalem early next year.

In 2020, the bridge over Bristol Road will be replaced, and Bristol Road between Lincoln Highway and Neshaminy Boulevard will be closed and fully updated. Additional structures slated to be replaced are the bridge above Rockhill Drive and overtop of the Turnpike by Old Lincoln Highway and Street Road.

Within the next three years, Brownsville Road and Rockhill Drive are on the schedule to be paved, followed by Bridgetown Pike in the next four or five years.

“There’s quite a bit going on,” Graham said.

He then took questions from attendees, the majority of whom expressed concerns over the worsening conditions on State Road. According to Graham, PennDOT is conducting a joint project with Bensalem Township and the Columbus Country Club, 2909 State Road, to begin fixing the flooding issues.

“We’re going to put all new drainage through the country club. The pipe right now runs through Street Road straight through the country club, and the pipe was put in, I think, in the early 1900s,” he said.

PennDOT will pay for the pipe and take ownership once the project is completed, with the township hiring a contractor to install it. Graham anticipated the work to begin on Monday, May 20, with the road remaining open to traffic.

“State Road is bad as far as drainage goes, and we’re just doing little things right now to try and correct it,” he said. “I know the channel that runs next to Columbus Country Club, Bensalem is working on having that cleaned out to make the water more free flowing down to the river, so hopefully that’ll be taken care of.”

At the end of the new pipe, a “flapper” will be installed to help with water flow.

“When the tide comes up, the water won’t release inside the pipe. It stops it. And then when the tide goes down, it releases out,” Graham explained. “So hopefully that’ll correct all those problems, and then we can continuously move up the road.”

Though several business owners expressed concerns over the construction causing more harm than good to their properties, Graham tried to assure them that everything will be OK.

“Now you’re going to have free flowing water that’s going to drain faster, and you have a pipe that’s been upgraded,” he said. “The water won’t sit. It’ll be able to take the water.”

Drainage upgrades will also be made this year from Street Road to Business Route 1, and from Route 13 to Street Road in 2020.

“That’s a lot of what we’re running into right now, drainage that was put in 50, 60 years ago is now starting to fail,” Graham said. “The old corrugated pipe, we don’t use that anymore, we use plastic.”

When asked about flooding issues under the railroad bridge on Station Avenue, Graham apologetically said how there are currently no improvement plans in the works. It would need to be a joint effort between PennDOT and SEPTA/Amtrak to raise both the rail and road.

“The problem with Station Avenue is, when it was designed or built years ago, the pipe that was put in through there never clogs. The only time it clogs is when water washes down and leaves block up the inlets,” he said. “We’ll just be down there every time it floods to clean it off.”

Further projects include the widening of Bristol Road from Neshaminy Boulevard to Bridgetown Pike, with two lanes and a center turning lane (through Graham was unsure of a specific timeframe), and smaller paving projects on Newportville Road and Bensalem Boulevard.

“Hopefully we can hold them together until next year when we do get them paved and surfaced,” he said.

Graham stressed that no roads will be closed during the repaving process.

Visit bensalembusinessdirectory.com for more information on the organization.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com