Toughkenamon Streetscape and Transportation Improvement Plan completed
By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
After more than a year of input from the public, elected and appointed officials and a lot of erasures and re-drawings, the vision that imagines a new and revitalized Toughkenamon is now complete.
The Streetscape and Transportation Improvement Plan in the Village of Toughkenamon creates a streetscape concept for the village, identifies ways to improve transportation and mobility in the village, and offers ideas to enhance aesthetics, create more housing diversity, and stimulate opportunities for investment.
More specifically, the plan offers imagines accommodations for safe routes to public transportation, crosswalks, pedestrian amenities and landscaping, as well as ideas for increasing walkability; reducing speeding and cut-through traffic; providing new road connections; creating a consistent streetscape that will include lighting and signage; increasing parking accommodations; and establishing a park near the village.
The final plan is available for public viewing on the New Garden Township website (www.newgarden.org), and will be presented to the township’s Board of Supervisors for adoption at a future public meeting.
As the 15-month process began, two initiatives dovetailed, beginning with the formation of a committee made up of township staff, local residents, landscape architects and planners. The committee worked with Natasha Manbeck and McMahon Associates and Jennifer Reitz of Thomas Commita & Associates towards the creation of a plan that now becomes the blueprint for a mixed-use corridor along Newark Road, Baltimore Pike and Main Street.
In addition, the township applied for and received a grant to fund the engineering of the project from the DVRPC Transportation and Community Development Initiative, which covered the $79,000 cost to develop a top-to-bottom concept to improve the village.
For Manbeck, Reitz and the rest of the committee, the “big-picture” concept they followed had already been written: improving the Village of Toughkenamon took up a significant chunk of aspirations the township spelled out in its 2018 Comprehensive Plan.
“We were fortunate that we weren’t necessarily starting from ground zero,” Manbeck said. “New Garden Township has long identified Toughkenamon as a place that has great potential to be even better than the gem village that it is today.”
While the Toughkenamon Streetscape and Transportation Improvement Plan is in the books and awaits action by the New Garden Township supervisors, one of the major drivers in the improvement of the village rests entirely apart from the plans’s findings and recommendations.
For the past several years, the much-needed improvements to the troublesome Baltimore Pike-Newark Road intersection have been on PennDOT’s to-do list, along with other statewide projects.
At this point, the intersection project has funding sources for both design and construction. PennDOT received a $2 million grant in 2018 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Multimodal Transportation Fund, as well as additional federal and state funding. Added to that, the township received a $600,000 Multimodal Transportation Fund grant from the Commonwealth Financing Authority, which it is using to advance the engineering for the project.
“The biggest stumbling block for this project -- which has been discussed for at least a decade – has been funding, and the funding has been secured, so the design is moving forward,” Manbeck said. “A key reason why the township undertook the Toughkenamon plan was because it was going to be done in alignment with addressing the biggest issue in the village.”
While several officials involved in the project believed that public input drove the plans for the village, several Toughkenamon residents who attended township meetings earlier this year spelled out several criticisms of the streetscape and transportation concepts. Some said that the ideas expressed in the plan are stacked in favor of benefitting developers and business owners, and not the people who actually live there.
Calling for the need to develop Toughkenamon “naturally,” the residents said that by drastically changing the infrastructure and zoning of the village to allow for retail and residential growth, it would allow for “a large influx” into the village.
As the final report was being finalized, those critical comments were included alongside those that applauded the components of the plan, Manbeck said.
“Overall, the public response we received was really helpful in shaping the recommendations in the plan, so throughout the process, we refined our ideas based on the public input we received,” she said. “We felt it was important to include a summary of some of the public comments we received, both in support of the plan, as well as those who were critical and in some cases, in complete opposition of the plan.”
As stated in the plan’s implementation chapter, reenergizing Toughkenamon into a thriving, walkable, mixed-use village will not happen overnight, but incrementally, through a commitment of time and resources from the community, New Garden Township staff, property owners and elected officials.
In the immediate future, the township will determine key action items, next steps, priorities and potential funding sources for capital improvement projects and policies/programs, as well as updating zoning and subdivision ordinances.
“As the residents requested and we agree, change and implementation will happen naturally and organically over time, and some of it will be dependent upon resources that will become available in the township – from volunteers, from technology, from staff and from funding,” Manbeck said.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].