New business development is key to economic development and growth in the region, but potential development projects in South Union Township could be at risk if traffic congestion problems along the Route 40 corridor aren’t solved or mitigated, one township official said.
Supervisor Robert Schiffbauer expressed concern about traffic difficulties along Route 40 from the intersection with Route 119 running west to where Route 40 intersects with Matthew Drive Extension and Northgate Drive. Specifically, the turning lane for traffic waiting to make a left onto the Route 119 has been deemed to be insufficient, Schiffbauer said.
“That intersection never functioned the way it should have from day one,” said Schiffbauer.
Township supervisors and their engineer recently sat down to discuss proposed development plans for the Fayette County Business Park along Matthew Drive Extension with representatives from Menards, along with McMillen Engineering representatives, Schiffbauer said. The home improvement chain’s proposed development is to build a 200,000-square-foot store, which would be the first in Pennsylvania.
“These traffic concerns, if not addressed, could adversely affect future economic development both in South Union Township and North Union Township as well,” said Schiffbauer, noting new and proposed developments on the North Union Township side of Route 40 in close proximity to Mount St. Macrina.
While officials understand that developers have a certain degree of responsibility to mitigate the impact on traffic when relocating to an area, Schiffbauer said it’s not feasible to think that developers will take on all of the responsibility. When it comes to traffic, Schiffbauer said they have learned that it’s best to address the issues early on in the process so they can be handled efficiently.
He said the inadequate space for cars waiting to turn at the intersection of Route 40 and Route 119 isn’t a new problem. In fact, the state Department of Transportation studied the intersection and had plans drawn up to fix it 15 or 16 years ago.
He’s hopeful the project will be placed on the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission’s Traffic Improvement Plan (TIP), which is a planning tool for both short and long term projects.
Officials also want to set a meeting up with state lawmakers in early December to discuss the project’s addition to the TIP.
“We need to give attention to the whole corridor to further allow economic development to take place,” said Schiffbauer, who spent two terms on the SPC.
When it comes to traffic issues, South Union officials are familiar with challenges. Schiffbauer said they have developed a great working relationship with PennDOT over the years, according to Schiffbauer. Township officials said they cut their teeth on a number of projects, including Cherry Tree Square, Walmart and former Kmart developments, which required serious and critical road upgrades to Route 21, New Salem Road and Matthew Drive.
Now, Schiffbauer said, they hope to partner with neighboring North Union Township on issues that benefit both municipalities.
“We are in a similar situation and we want to see their growth continue. Just as we want to see growth in South Union,” said Schiffbauer. “We’ve decided to work together.”
With a trend of retail and commercial development slowing down not just in the area but around the country because of the increase in popularity of online shopping, Schiffbauer said local officials need to step in and help out however they can.
“We have to make full use of what we can to allow development to take place and assist it whenever possible,” added Schiffbauer.