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Route 309 Connector has Hilltown residents in an uproar


Vexing traffic jams, an influx of speeding vehicles and disruption to quality of life and business are among the concerns Hilltown residents expressed regarding a forthcoming Route 309 road project from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The residents spoke out after hearing a presentation on the project from PennDOT at the March 25 Hilltown Board of Supervisors meeting.

The work slated for Hilltown is part of a larger, three-phase road construction effort that PennDOT refers to as the Route 63 (Sumneytown Pike)/Route 309 Connector Program.

The intent of the project is to improve vehicle flow/connectivity along a heavily traveled five-mile corridor between Sumneytown Pike, just north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Lansdale Interchange, to Route 309.

The first phase of the project was completed in 2012. Construction on the second phase began within the last two years but hasn’t yet concluded.

It’s the third and final phase — construction of which PennDOT aims to begin in 2027 — that has some residents in Hilltown sweating.

The third phase is expected to focus on a roughly mile-long stretch of East Township Line Road from Hatfield/Souderton Pike to County Line Road, Route 309 and Fairhill Road. It includes a partial interchange at Route 309 with the replacement of the Fairhill Road bridge over Route 309, according to PennDOT.

Among other things, Phase Three could involve closing the northbound left-turn lane at Bergey Road permanently, installing a traffic signal at Route 309 and Church Road, widening the intersection at Unionville Pike, and creating roundabouts at Bethlehem Pike/County Line Road and the 309 interchange, according to design plans PennDOT shared.

A plan for a semi-diverter — and its possible impacts on Fairhill Road and Keystone Drive — had residents worried.

Typically, semi-diverters restrict traffic in one direction to prevent entrance to a street, while permitting traffic to pass through in the other direction. Although they can effectively reduce traffic volume, diverters must be part of a comprehensive improvement scheme or else they can end up simply displacing congestion.

Residents are concerned the diverter in this case could pummel Fairhill, Keystone and possibly other Hilltown roads with a barrage of increased vehicle volume.

“This is one of the worst ideas of all time,” said one resident. “It’s not going to be safe.”

Residents shared fears that existing problems with speeding will be exacerbated. They envisioned scenarios in which getting to and from their homes would be complicated and delayed by traffic snarls — even pulling out of the driveway made significantly harder.

“This project is going to destroy the township,” said resident Joe Roberto. “You’re asking for a major thoroughfare.”

While PennDOT said it notified local property owners about the project, some residents said they felt blindsided by the road construction plan, asserting more should have been done to involve Hilltown folks in the planning.

“We just found out about this,” asserted a Hilltown woman who said she has lived in the township her whole life.

Dave Keller’s family has run Indian Valley Camping Center, which specializes in RV sales, on Bethlehem Pike for what’s now three generations. Keller said right-of-way acquisitions related to the project could cripple his company’s ability to do business.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do,” Keller told supervisors.

A PennDOT representative said the department is working with landowners on right-of-way acquisitions and will “make them whole.”

Caleb Torrice, chair of the three-person board of supervisors that governs Hilltown, said supervisors take residents’ concerns seriously. He said officials are studying the PennDOT plans and how they relate to Hilltown, analyzing what can be done to help residents.

“We’re looking at things like how we can control our portion of Fairhill, for instance,” Torrice said. “Factors like what speed controls can we use so that Fairhill doesn’t become a racetrack. Our goal is to protect residents and ensure they feel safe.”

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