Collegeville Braces For Rte. 29 Construction Some Fear The Loss Of Business And Loss Of The Small-town Atmosphere.

Posted: March 17, 1998

COLLEGEVILLE — Preparing for a major overhaul of the main road that winds through the heart of the borough, council members, PennDot officials and residents last week reviewed six prospective plans for a yearlong improvement project scheduled to begin in 2001.

The plans involve a ``dog leg'' that includes parts of First and Second Avenues and Main Street and a planned bypass through a vacant property next to the Powerhouse building, a popular antiques dealership and flea market.

Some business owners, however, are worried about the inconvenience to their customers during the construction on Route 29. And residents and council members expressed concern about keeping the quaint feel of the 100-year-old borough.

``Our lunchtime customers need to get in and get out,'' said Glenn Richardson Sr., who owns the Perkiomen Bridge Hotel on Main Street, one of the Collegeville businesses at the hub of the targeted construction area. Richardson bought the hotel one year ago and said he would have invested $1.2 million when renovations were complete.

Planners estimate that more than $1 million in state and federal funds will be needed to complete the road project. Route 29 is a state-owned highway and is also part of a federal road system.

Kelly Schweighauser, PennDot's project manager for the Route 29 improvement plans, described the road as ``a failure,'' a onetime farm-to-market road now clogged by traffic from thriving new developments and by the stream of employees from the Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Inc. and SmithKline Beecham pharmaceutical plants about two miles south of the borough.

Minor accidents along Second Avenue have become a regular occurrence, said Collegeville Police Chief John Clawson. Widening Main Street and improving the turning radius on First and Second Avenues would do more for the borough than building a bypass, he argued.

He is concerned PennDot will increase the speed limit on Route 29 to improve traffic flow.

The project is in the preliminary design stage, Schweighauser said. Besides reviewing a traffic study, PennDot also is investigating the history that lies hidden in the ground on Route 29's shoulders.

PennDot officials are searching through property deeds to determine if any bordering the road hold historical value, and the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission is leading the study of the proposed renovation site.

If a potential archaeological site is unearthed during the preliminary stages of the road improvement project, Schweighauser said, it could cause a significant delay.

Projected population increases in the Collegeville area over the next 10 years have been taken into consideration by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

``It's not suddenly going to be a pleasure to drive through,'' warned Schweighauser. ``It's always going to be congested.''

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