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HomePA Route 23 EIS

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Press Release


-- New emphasis on “right sizing” seeks to lessen impacts on farmland and the environment while also providing traffic relief at an affordable price. –

HARRISBURG, PA (May 10) — At a meeting tonight with local government officials, Lancaster County commissioners and Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler announced the resumption of the PA Route 23 Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to provide traffic relief for the 14-mile Route 23 corridor between Route 30 and Route 322 in northeastern Lancaster county. The study had been halted in March 2004 for re-evaluation by PennDOT. As a result of the initial re-evaluation, the study will now consider two-lane bypass alternatives as well as the four-lane bypass alternatives, improvements to the existing corridor, and the “do nothing” alternative.

“We’re very pleased to see work resume on this study to improve traffic conditions on Route 23,” said Dick Shellenberger, chairman of the Lancaster County board of commissioners. “Over the past several years, we’ve put a good bit of effort into identifying ways to improve Route 23. On our part, we’ve put a very strong emphasis on land use. While we want to improve transportation and make travel safer, we also want to preserve the agricultural resources that make this area special.”

When work on the Route 23 project was stopped last year, it was one of 12 major projects statewide worth a total of $3 billion identified for re-evaluation. Another 14 projects worth $2 billion were deferred at the time. These projects were in addition to the $7.2 billion already proposed for highway and bridge improvements in the most recent update of the state’s 12-Year Transportation Program.

In dealing with all the transportation needs across the Commonwealth, State Transportation Secretary Biehler explained that the costs are daunting. “The demand for improvements far exceeds the money we have available to pay for them,” Biehler said. “We need to work smarter, and we need to look for opportunities to scale back projects to fit within our pocketbook.

“With the initial results of the re-evaluation we’ve conducted this past year, we believe that an improved Route 23 corridor is still a goal worth pursuing and one that can be financially achievable,” Biehler stated. “By working together, we believe we can develop affordable improvements for safety and mobility while also reducing our impact on the environment. It is an approach we call ‘right sizing.’ It is time now to move on, apply this concept of ‘right sizing’ to all of the alternatives under consideration, and complete the engineering and environmental work for this corridor.”

Joining Secretary Biehler at the evening meeting hosted by the county commissioners at the Leola Restaurant was Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff. “I am pleased the Department of Agriculture is a member of this team,” Wolfe said. “This multi-agency and jurisdictional effort is a great example of Governor Rendell’s commitment to cooperation among state agencies and local interests. I am confident that through this process we can achieve a solution that effectively balances the transportation needs of the community with the important agricultural resources found in this region. I look forward to being a partner in this process.”

Lancaster County commissioners spoke about upcoming activities of the Eastern Lancaster County Land Use Plan (ELCLUS) and shared their support for the resumption of the PA 23 project. Commissioners Shellenberger, Molly Henderson, and Pete Shaub have worked with Secretary Biehler to ensure that the future vision for Lancaster County is preserved.

As part of the re-evaluation conducted by PennDOT this past year, the study team for Route 23 analyzed the concept of a two-lane Southern Alternative to determine if a significant reduction could be achieved in cost and impacts to the community. The Southern Alternative was selected as the initial PA 23 EIS alternative to be re-evaluated because it has the highest costs and farmland impacts of the three “build” alternatives currently under consideration. The goal of the re-evaluation was a “right-sized” alternative that balances costs, environmental and property impacts while still satisfying the transportation needs to the best degree possible. Project planners determined from preliminary analysis that costs, farmland and historic acreage impacts could each be reduced by approximately 40% with a two-lane Southern Alternative, as compared to a four-lane Southern Alternative.

In the coming months, PA 23 team members will re-evaluate the remaining build alternatives – completing preliminary engineering designs, traffic analysis, developing cost estimates, and calculating preliminary environmental and property impacts. All of the alternatives will then be compared according to various measures of effectiveness and their ability to meet the transportation needs and land use goals previously identified in the studies.

“We are pleased with the results of the project re-evaluation so far,” stated Barry Hoffman, PennDOT’s district executive for south central Pennsylvania. “We look forward to continuing our work with the community. The community’s involvement is vital. After the re-evaluation work is completed, the PA 23 study team will hold a public meeting to discuss the results and gain valuable stakeholder input.”

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