Route 202 Parkway a Suburban Skyline Drive

Driving the parkway went smoothly on opening day, but it remains to be seen if the scenic road will be able to handle heavy traffic.

It's like a suburban Skyline Drive.

That's the impression I got as I drove the Route 202 Parkway just minutes after it opened to traffic late Monday afternoon.

The real Skyline Drive is a 105-mile-long, two-lane road that runs the length of Shendandoah National Park in Virginia, featuring overlooks with sweeping vistas. The 35 mph road is free of commercial development, has overpasses and underpasses to avoid traffic lights, and is restricted to cars and passenger trucks.

The new Route 202 Parkway would be a fantastic road if it were located in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. It is protected from commercial development and private access, and is paralleled for its entire length by a paved 12-foot-wide bike-hike trail separated from the roadway by a split-rail fence.

However, it remains to be seen if the long-awaited bypass will be able to handle heavy suburban traffic, projected to reach 23,300 to 28,300 vehicles per day by 2020. Unlike the Skyline Drive, the parkway has traffic lights and is open to all trucks, including tractor-trailers.

It took me only 13 minutes during rush hour to travel the 8.4 miles from Welsh Road (Route 63) in Montgomery Township to the Route 611 interchange in Doylestown Township, keeping to the posted speed of 40 mph. That's at least 15 to 20 minutes faster than driving via old Route 202 or Upper State Road.

The best part of the parkway is the 1.7 miles north of Welsh Road, where it is four lanes. The highway passes over Route 309 on a bridge and completely avoids the notorious Five Points intersection.

After Horsham Road (Route 463), the parkway tapers to two lanes for the remaining 6.7 miles. It briefly widens to four travel lanes at County Line Road, apparently to allow more traffic to make it through the light.

In the two-lane section, cars start stacking up in lines, so you can only go as fast the the lead car. That wasn't much a problem on Monday, since most of the vehicles were passenger cars. But should a slow-moving dump truck be in the lead, you could be stuck behind it for miles. If there is anywhere to pass, I didn't see it.

Of the 10 traffic signals on the parkway, the only red light I encountered was at Limekiln Pike (Route 152). About a dozen cars backed up waiting for the light to turn green. I wondered, how long are the lines at intersections going to be as traffic increases over time?

There are left-turn and right-turn lanes at each intersection, which does help keep traffic moving.

After years of going up and down the steep hill on Upper State Road at Bristol Road, I was pleasantly surprised by the gentle incline where the parkway crosses Bristol Road. That should be a big plus during the winter.

The paved shoulders on each side are only 5 feet wide, with another 3 feet of a grass-covered base to allow for emergencies.

I was flabbergasted to find out the shoulders are designated as high-speed bike lanes. This means some cyclists will be riding within inches of traffic even though there is a protected bike path on the other side of the split-rail fence.

PennDOT should reconsider this before a tragedy occurs. There really is no need for cyclists to use the shoulders, which not only creates a potential danger to them but is a distraction for drivers.

When spring comes and trees and plants are in bloom, the parkway should look fairly attractive.

Of course, the $200 million highway wasn't built for sightseeing, but to move traffic. It's nowhere near as functional as the Route 611 bypass around Doylestown, but it's still much better than the old Route 202 through Chalfont.

I expect to use the parkway to go between Doylestown and Montgomeryville. After all, half a bypass is better than none.

Jeff Lugar December 04, 2012 at 06:30 PM
You've clearly not driven on the parkway. There's no place for cops to hide to give speeding tickets.
Jeff W December 04, 2012 at 09:31 PM
But for some reason, no left turn arrow traveling SW on Upper State turning onto Limekiln Pike going south!!! Even early in the morning this can take a while to get through, with buses and traffic spaced out just enough (and morons who don't use their turn signals)...
Mary191 December 05, 2012 at 04:15 AM
should be 4 lanes all the way
David Neamand December 05, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Personally after driving it, I see no reason to do so. I timed a trip from Lower State to County Line both on the new road and on old Upper State. Within seconds of one another. I also can't figure out what the heck it is, a road attempting to pose as a park or a park attempting as a road. Either way it is a mess. The posted speed limit of 40 is probably a safe speed yet most cars are doing much more, yet given the twists and lack of any shoulder due to walking paths, bike paths and plantings, it feels more like a cattle shoot then a road. Driving is more of aiming for the center then actually driving. I also noticed that traffic on both Bristle and especially County Line was backed up and it even wasn't rush hour! I shudder to think what the back up on County Line will be at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon. I know we have Buckingham to thank for losing the two lanes (the pinheads), but I can't help how much was sacrificed due to the cost of the "park stuff"
Joe December 06, 2012 at 12:44 PM
John Cope, the photo are of classic cars from opening day ceremony. If you enlarge the photo, you can see historic tags on the car in the forefront. But the road was supposed to be four lanes all the way as was designed decades ago!


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