Newtown Traffic Solution 2 First Was The Bypass, Now So Busy, Drivers Are Leaving It. The Sequel: New Traffic Light Timers.

Posted: June 11, 1997

NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP — It was designed to be a four-lane funnel, a stretch of pavement that would divert the flow of traffic away from the congested streets of Newtown Borough.

But less than seven years after the Newtown Bypass opened, the road appears to have an altogether different effect on the borough, officials say. Traffic congestion on the bypass is prompting many drivers to steer their cars through familiar territory - straight down the borough's Washington Avenue.

The shortcut may be short-lived.

The township Board of Supervisors has approved a project that will lead to computerized coordination of 11 traffic signals along the five miles of the bypass. They hope to give drivers a smoother trip with fewer stops. The result, said Township Manager Cornell Hopkins, could be decreased traffic in the borough.

``When it's working well, if a person stays with the traffic, they ought to be able to flow through the area with a minimum of stops,'' Hopkins said.

Drivers on the bypass are controlled by a system in which timing of signals is determined largely by time of day. At peak hours, the signals sometimes lead to long lines of stopped vehicles.

Under the new system, signals will be connected through fiber-optic cable to a central computer in the township municipal office. Sensors in the pavement of the bypass and side streets will allow the system to continually adjust the timing of traffic lights, Hopkins said.

An override option will allow township officials to adjust the system in case of accidents or special events.

``It's something we've been introducing more and more frequently,'' said Tim Stevenson, project manager with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The Federal Highway Administration will provide $855,000 for the $935,000 project, said PennDot spokesman Charles Metzger.

Newtown, Middletown and Lower Makefield Townships probably will pay proportionate shares of the remainder, based on the number of lights in each community, Hopkins said. One intersection is in Middletown. Two are in Lower Makefield. The remaining eight are in Newtown.

Under ideal circumstances, Hopkins said, the project could be finished in two years.

Relief of traffic congestion is needed on the bypass and in the borough, said township Supervisors Chairman Raymond Goodnoe. ``The bypass has reached its critical capacity,'' Goodnoe said. ``The next logical step is to have intelligent traffic signals.''

The $16.6 million bypass opened in November 1991. A few months later, officials reported that the road was having the desired effect, reducing the traffic burden on the borough.

In recent years, said Borough Mayor Glenn Hains, congestion in the borough has increased. ``People are finding that the bypass is getting more and more crowded with cars,'' he said. Relief from the problem, he said, would be welcomed.

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