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Source: Springfield Sun
Date: August 12, 2005
Byline: Joe Barron

Funds presented for pike, inn

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-13, doled out a bit of federal bacon in Flourtown Aug. 4.

Schwartz, a freshman Congresswoman elected in November, appeared at a public rally at the Black Horse Inn bearing ceremonial checks for the inn and for Bethlehem Pike.

At her recommendation, Congress included a $150,000 grant for the Black Horse in the $26.1 billion Interior and Environmental Appropriations Act passed July 28. The same day, the House of Representatives passed the $286.1 billion National Highways Bill, which includes $800,000 for Bethlehem Pike.

The Senate passed the Highway Bill the next day, and President George W. Bush signed it Wednesday.

Unlike the Black Horse grant, which requires $150,000 in matching funds from nonfederal sources, the money for Bethlehem Pike comes without conditions, Schwartz said Aug. 5.

The grant will help fulfill the Vision Plan of the Flourtown-Erdenheim Enhancement Association, which hopes to turn the pike into a more hospitable destination for both pedestrians and shoppers.

The Vision Plan, the first draft of which was published in August 2003, recommends reconfiguring the traffic lanes on the pike to eliminate the need for vehicles to keep changing lanes. The reconfiguration includes central turn lanes, unobstructed through lanes, and permanent parking lanes.

The plan would also make the pike friendlier to pedestrians by adding street trees, benches, and decorative lighting.

In addition, curbs at intersections would jut into the pike, reducing the number of traffic lanes pedestrians must cross from four to two, according to the plan.

The Vision Plan covers Bethlehem Pike from Valley Green Road in Whitemarsh to Gordon Lane in Erdenheim. The grant proposal submitted to Schwartz's office by Springfield Township estimated the full cost of the improvements at $3.66 million.

The grant proposal indicated that the work on the pike could be done in two years, but Don Berger, the Springfield township manager, said Aug. 5 that work could not begin before extensive historical and environmental impact studies were carried out.

Work will also have to wait until renovations to Route 309 are complete, since blocking the two major northbound arteries simultaneously would only worsen existing traffic problems. Berger estimated the construction on the Springfield portions of 309 will continue through 2007.

Schwartz, a junior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which fashioned the highways bill, secured $40 million in aid for special transportation projects in her district. More senior members of the committee took home $60 to $90 million, and the chairman of the committee, Rep. Don Young, R-Ala., received $1 billion for his district, according to published news reports.

Other grants for the Montgomery County portion of Schwartz's district include $3.2 million to coordinate signals and deploy message signs and cameras along Northeast Extension of the turnpike, Route 309 and the Schuylkill Expressway; $1.6 million for street improvements in Abington; and $1.8 million for street improvements to Joshua Road, Germantown Pike and Ridge Pike in Whitemarsh.

Schwartz said she selected projects for inclusion in the Highway Bill after consulting the municipalities in her district, and she hoped the improvements to Bethlehem Pike would attract private investment into the area.

"It's about economic development," she said. "I was very interested in hearing from members of the community ... We reached out to every township manager in my district."