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Route 202 Parkway to Open Monday After Decades of Debate

The concept of relocating Route 202 to bypass towns along the way dates back to 1932; the opposition to the proposals goes back just as far.

When drivers steer onto the smooth surface of the new Route 202 Parkway Monday afternoon, they will be driving a very different road than the one first envisioned as much as 80 years ago.

The long-awaited, much-debated Route 202 Parkway is scheduled to open Monday afternoon after a 2 p.m. ribbon cutting in Warrington Township.

Spanning 8.4 miles, the $200 million Parkway is the culmination of decades of often bitter debate over the relationship between roads and development.

First envisioned as far back as 1932, the roadway that is now the existing Route 202 always has been a vital transportation link in the Philadelphia suburbs.

As population in the suburbs swelled, more cars took to the roads, quickly clogging what had been country roads and forcing community leaders to begin debating solutions.

In 1964, the state proposed making Route 202 an "outer ring" regional expressway, from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River. That plan was abandoned in the 1970s.

Fast forward 30 years, and Central Bucks County is becoming a very busy place. Warrington Township alone grew from about 4,100 residents in 1960 to more than 12,000 in 1990. Doylestown Township grew from 3,795 in 1960 to 14,510 in 1990.

All those houses popping up in what used to be farm fields came with cars, and those cars needed roads.

In 1996, PennDOT announced it wanted to build a 9-mile, four-lane expressway between Doylestown and Montgomeryville, at an estimated cost of $465 million.

Bitter opposition from Buckingham and Solebury townships began almost immediately. The more-rural townships on the northeastern terminus of the proposed expressway worried about what would happen to the traffic "dumped" on their doorstep. They also argued that the road would further encourage development. The townships filed lawsuits to stop construction, and while the suits eventually were dismissed, the process dragged on for many years.

Meanwhile, funding for such amibitious highway projects began to dry up.

By 2004, Gov. Ed Rendell directed the state to start looking at cheaper alternatives. The following year, officials unveiled designs for the $206 million Parkway.

 

Here is a detailed look back at the history behind the Route 202 Parkway:

1932: The Regional Plan of the Philadelphia Tri-State District is completed at a cost of $600,000 after four years of work by 200 planners with input from local elected officials and citizens. A map shows an expressway paralleling the existing Route 202, which in those pre-interstate days was the major highway through the western suburbs of Philadelphia, connecting West Chester, Norristown and Doylestown.

1939: Anticipating heavy traffic on Route 202 through Doylestown on the way to the New York World's Fair, borough council makes State Street one-way westbound and Oakland Avenue one-way eastbound.

1951: The Doylestown Daily Intelligencer publishes a series of articles decrying traffic congestion, especially from trucks, on State Street and Oakland Avenue, and urging construction of a Route 202 bypass. A front-page headline declares: "Doylestown Residents And Others Denounce Failure To By-Pass Route 202 Around Town."

1964: The Pennsylvania Department of Highways (predecessor of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) proposes making Route 202 an "outer ring" regional expressway between the Schuylkill River at Norristown and the Delaware River at New Hope. The plan includes Route 202 and Route 611 bypasses around Doylestown.

1968: The highway department studies possible alignments for the Route 202 expressway. One of these, the Orange Alignment, decades later would become the basis for today's Route 202 Parkway.

1970: Due to strong community opposition, the river-to-river expressway plan is scrapped. Instead, the state awards contracts to build the 2-mile Route 202 bypass and the 4.5-mile Route 611 bypass around Doylestown.

1976: The Route 611 bypass opens, joining the already completed Route 202 bypass. The final cost for the combined Doylestown bypass is $12.3 million for construction and $5.4 million for right-of-way acquisition.

1980s: Doylestown Township, Montgomery Township and other municipalities negotiate with developers to preserve a corridor for a future bypass from Doylestown to Montgomeryville, although the highway is far from a certainty.

1990: PennDOT begins a $5.9 million environmental impact study of the proposed bypass.

1996: After holding a public hearing attended by hundreds of bypass supporters and opponents, PennDOT announces it will seek federal government approval to build a 9-mile, four-lane expressway with full interchanges between Doylestown and Montgomeryville.

1997: Buckingham Township sues in federal court to stop the bypass, claiming PennDOT's environmental impact study is flawed. Six municipalities supporting the bypass file their own motion to have Buckingham's objections dismissed.

1998: A federal district count judge dismisses Buckingham's suit, saying it was premature. The Federal Highway Administration approves construction of the bypass, and PennDOT begins the final engineering design.

1999: In February, Buckingham sues the Federal Highway Administration and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (PennDOT subsequently became a defendant), alleging falsified data was used to support the bypass. In December, Solebury and Plumstead file motions in support of Buckingham's position.

2000: PennDOT continues to acquire properties for the right of way, and tears down several houses in Doylestown and Montgomery townships in the path of the planned highway.

2001: A federal district court judge rejects Buckingham's lawsuit, ruling the transportation agencies acted properly in approving the bypass and calling the township's opposition "rancorous and relentless."

2002: In January, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the lower court's decision. In June, Buckingham appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declines to hear the case.

2003: Bypass opponents present a plan calling for scrapping the expressway and instead constructing 16 "roundabouts" (traffic circles) to replace various intersections along Route 202 and Upper State Road, at an estimated cost of $67 million.

2004: With the bypass estimated to cost $465 million, the Rendell Administration orders PennDOT to examine cheaper alternatives, while continuing to design and acquire rights of way for the Route 202 expressway.

2005: In February, PennDOT unveils a proposal to build a two-lane "parkway" with at-grade intersections, estimated to cost $206 million, instead of the four-lane expressway with interchanges. In September, Gov. Ed Rendell announces that officials from municipalities along the corridor, including Buckingham, have reached a consensus to accept the parkway as the new Route 202.

2006: PennDOT begins redesigning the bypass as a two-lane parkway, and prepares a draft Environmental Evaluation Report on the benefits and impacts of the highway.

2007: The state approves the final environmental report, clearing the way for completion of engineering plans.

2008: In September, PennDOT awards the first construction contract for the parkway--$31.7 million to build the southern section between Welsh Road (Route 63) and Horsham Road (Route 463) in Montgomery Township. Ground is broken in November.

2009: PennDOT awards a $25 million contract for the central section between Horsham Road and Pickertown Road in Warrington, and a $42.2 million contract for the northern section between Pickertown Road and the Route 611 bypass in Doylestown Township.

2010: Construction begins on the central and northern sections. In June, Wells Road in Doylestown Township is closed for construction of a bridge over the parkway.

2011: The General Assembly designates the new Route 202, between Routes 63 and 611, as the George A. Penglase Memorial Parkway, after the late businessman and civic leader who was a tireless advocate of the bypass for nearly 40 years. In October, residents along Wells Road throw an outdoor party to celebrate the completion of the overpass and the reopening of the road.

2012: The "Party on the Parkway" in September allows cyclists and pedestrians to experience the nearly finished, traffic-free roadway. On Dec. 3, the Route 202 Parkway opens following a dedication ceremony.

feisty December 05, 2012 at 06:19 PM
RonL, what do I get for your two incorrect deductions? I don't agree that the area is reminiscent of rural Bucks because the corridor has been transformed so much. If I were to try to stand in woods or fields I knew two and a half years ago, I can't so I don't feel your sense of reminiscence at all. You have your argument for advocating the parkway and you strike me the type to stand by your convictions as do I. Just out of curiosity, what is your guess on how many "not many homes are affected" there really are? With a statement like that, I feel that you may be negating the feelings those people who do live along the corridor. Would you like being a resident in a community next to the parkway and you heard about someone throwing their opinion around who may not even live along the corridor and generally acting like it's no big deal? I'm sure it's a big deal to them. Being a bedroom community is exactly why opposition should have been stronger against the parkway. I'm sure the bedrooms that are now stuck beside a noisy polluting machine would agree. So it wasn't your bedroom that was affected, it still sucks for someone else. I still think it was a waste of money and I'd rather have those woods and fields back and all those cars driving on a parkway that was parked somewhere else.
J Umphlet December 06, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Parkway much too curvey. Bikepath a suicide path. Ths road is a hazard. I can only imagine the number of accidents and dead animals that will come. And a dark rainy night on that parkway would be scary.
RonL December 06, 2012 at 02:37 PM
"I also disagree with your "reminiscence of rural Bucks County" It looks that way is because they took numerous undeveloped acreage and destroyed it for commuters." quote from feisty. From what I read in that sentence, you agree it's reminiscient. If it were not for the Parkway, this land would have long been developed and gone. The Parkway Commission worked extremely hard to keep this corridor from being developed! Otherwise it would already have been tract housing and your precious woods completely gone! As for the homeowners along the Parkway in New Britain and Warrington and Doylestown Townships already long knew the parkway corridor and where it was proposed to go along the corridor that the commission preserved from developement. So don't blame the parkway. The homebuyers knew about it! In fact I work with a woman who knew it when she went to buy a home.
feisty December 07, 2012 at 02:29 AM
RonL: While others will agree that the parkway is reminiscent of rural bucks county, my response to your initial rebuttal included what I failed to write the first time. That missing information would throw anyone off, but I thought the clarification would suffice. Is it an accurate assessment that all land protected by right-of-way would have been developed and gone? Who can say with certainty, but I can't imagine that all privately held land would have been subdivided and sold to developers. Land protected for road, road takes away land: catch twenty-two or paradox? While there were many well-informed people buying along the corridor, there were a good many more that did not think the road would come to fruition. Having said that, I don't think knowing about the possibility of a road and seeing/hearing it in action is in any way equal. Regarding your remark, "So don't blame the parkway." If my words somehow conveyed any blame toward anyone or anything, that was not my intent. Still, online forums aren't always the best communicators as inflection and body language play a role in how a message is delivered and perceived. Overall, there are no winners with the new parkway. Even people pleased to have a road are unhappy with varying aspects of it. No one will ever see eye to eye on this subjective issue.
bill murphy December 09, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Shaved 20 minutes of my drive home from work and added 3 mpg to my car. I like it a lot. Ever try and take 202 atvrush hour through Chalfont? Enviromental impact should be offset with reduced emmisions and better fuel economy. I have friends that live by chalfont and they are very happy its open now.

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