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It’s not a question of whether North Annville Township will see increased traffic from the burgeoning industrial park in South Annville Township – it’s a question of when.
Nearly 3 million square feet of warehouse space has opened or is under construction in South Annville Township, with another 2.5 million square feet already planned.
Read More: Your guide to the warehouses under construction in South Annville Twp.
In April 2021, Exel Inc., a DHL-subsidiary, received a $3 million grant from Pennsylvania’s Multimodal Transportation Fund for traffic improvements related to development of its new South Annville Township logistics park, which if fully developed would contain 3 million square feet of the total 5.5 million square feet planned for the former MFS land.
Several improvements are planned as part of the grant, but the most significant of them is a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Route 934 and Clear Spring Road in North Annville Township.
- $3 million grant awarded to reduce traffic impact of Clear Springs Logistics Park
- RTK request reveals details of SR 934 roundabout, other improvements for DHL
Traffic Planning and Design Inc. (TPD), traffic planners hired by DHL, submitted a preliminary line and grade submission for the roundabout to PennDOT on April 6.
“This submission shows key horizontal and vertical design elements so that PennDOT can provide initial feedback,” said PennDOT District 8 spokesperson Dave Thompson. “It’s a precursor to presenting the complete design package.”
PennDOT is nearing the end of a 30-day period to provide feedback on the submission. After Exel and TPD address any comments or concerns from PennDOT, they will move next to seek approval from North Annville Township, which will be the official applicant for the completed design package and Highway Occupancy Permit, which is a PennDOT permit for any entity which desires to access the state’s right of way, such as that of Route 934.
Although DHL/Exel was the entity to receive the state grant, traffic planners have considered impact from all three facilities – NorthPoint Development’s EaglePoint Logistics Center, The Hershey Company’s Annville Fulfillment Center, and DHL’s Clear Springs Logistics Park – in their analysis.
North Annville Township board of supervisors president Randy Leisure said the township will be reviewing the plans after PennDOT has signed off. Leisure said he couldn’t speak to the township’s overall perspective on the roundabout, as more review and feedback is to come, and that he thought in advance of any meetings on the issue, it would be helpful to get the information out to prompt feedback about what the Exel-hired planners have in mind.
“Gives us more input on what the residents feel about it,” said Leisure.
Leisure said the working relationship with Exel and the planners has been amicable. The main concern from residents, he noted, was the traffic on Clear Spring Road.
Although the warehouses are already well underway and will open regardless of any concerns from North Annville Township, Leisure said the township is exploring ways to limit traffic on that road, possibly by weight or length, and is currently pursuing an engineering study to assess the road’s weight-bearing capacity. Leisure said the township will need to be very specific about why it wants to limit traffic, but pointed to steep hills and grades and residential areas along Clear Spring Road as extenuating factors.
The current proposal minimizes the impact from the roundabout on a nearby house, with a large portion of the improvements to occur on the Bomgardner farm. Since the property is a preserved farm, there are specific procedures to follow for acquiring the right of way – but according to the proposal, initial discussion regarding the right-of-way have already begun between PennDOT and the county.
Lebanon County traffic planner Jon Fitzkee noted that, as a private developer, Exel does not have the same rights for eminent domain as PennDOT, and that any land acquisitions/easements would have to be negotiated privately with property owners.
The roundabout has been designed to handle turning movements of WB-67 trucks, the most common configuration of semi-trailer.
The plan calls for an 8-foot-wide multi-use trail around the roundabout for pedestrians and bicyclists. Planners noted that although pedestrian and bike activity at the intersection today, the Lebanon Valley Bicycle Coalition has advocated for the project to include a multi-use path.
In the PennDOT submission, planners said the roundabout was designed with “fairly tight entrance angles” to control speeds, with exit speeds for the roundabout falling on the higher end of guidance from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.
Leisure said that after the PennDOT review is complete, North Annville Township will provide an opportunity for township residents to weigh in.
“If there’s something really wrong with it, we’ll say no and it’ll stop,” said Leisure.
Leisure said the goal is to come up with a plan that the majority of residents would be happy with.
Even before ground was broken on the warehouses, though, improvements at this intersection were on the township’s radar out of safety concerns.
“It’s unfortunate that this is the driving factor for it,” said Leisure. “We want to do what’s best for our residents in terms of safety.”
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