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Heavy truck traffic prompts East Rockhill rule against “Jake brakes”


East Rockhill’s board of supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday (Feb. 26) to adopt an ordinance that prohibits vehicles from using brake retarders along North Rockhill Road between Muskrat Road and Quarry Road.

The new ordinance comes amid residents’ concerns that dump trucks and related quarry vehicles could eventually be making hundreds of trips daily down the road to and from Rockhill Quarry, which is on North Rockhill Road and reopened to the shock of residents in December 2017 after being largely – if not entirely – dormant since the early 1980s.

Some residents at Monday’s meeting asked if the area in which noisy “Jake brakes” are prohibited could be extended farther, but Township Engineer Steve Baluh said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would not allow that.

In response to residents’ concerns, supervisors said they would investigate other potential traffic control measures.

“Let’s make sure we’re doing everything we can,” said Supervisor Gary Volovnik.

Last year, in response to quarry traffic concerns, supervisors lowered the speed limit on North Rockhill Road between the bridge over the railroad tracks and the intersection with Old Bethlehem Pike to 25 mph.

The quarry truck traffic discussion comes as major operations at the quarry are at least temporarily paused following a December finding of asbestos at the site, officials said. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is reportedly looking into the matter.

Meanwhile, East Rockhill residents, township officials, quarry operator Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp. and site owner Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania are awaiting a decision from U.S. District Judge Gerald Austin McHugh.

The township and the quarry clashed in federal district court on Feb. 13, 14 and 15. Effectively, the township wants an injunction on quarry activities as local hearings on the operations proceed before East Rockhill’s Zoning Hearing Board. The quarry countersued the township and its supervisors.

Hopes from some local officials that a ruling would be issued before the end of February likely weren’t going to be met.

“It probably won’t be until the end of next week (the first full week of March),” said John B. Rice, an attorney who represented East Rockhill.

Rice noted that parties in the case could appeal McHugh’s ruling to a U.S. Court of Appeals. He also said McHugh’s ruling could potentially impact the ongoing zoning hearing board deliberations.

Township officials wouldn’t speculate on what the judge’s decision will be, but in response to a question about how he felt the trial went, Rice said, “I’m not sad about it.”

Pierson has worked the quarry in support of its $224 million contract to provide asphalt for about seven miles of the Turnpike Northeast Extension.

East Rockhill residents are worried that the quarry will cause everything from air pollution, groundwater degradation, and well water depletion, to dangerous truck traffic, intrusive noise, diminished property values and more