A collective sigh of relief seemed to emanate from the public officials gathered at the 202 Parkway's ribbon-cutting ceremony on the George Niblock Bridge in Warrington.
After decades of planning, shelving of the plans, debates over new plans, funding issues and, finally, construction, the feeling of accomplishment running through the crowd has been a long time coming.
Representatives from local, county and state offices gave remarks that held common themes of gratitude at the cooperation among the different parties involved in the planning and execution, and optimism that the new road will bring much-needed relief to traffic congestion between the two sections of Bucks and Montgomery counties.
"This road is a model of what can happen when people work together," said Lt. Governor Jim Cawley in prepared remarks. "This parkway will make a big improvement in travel time."
According to figures provided by PennDOT, the 202 Parkway is projected to carry between 23,000 and 28,000 vehicles per day. The study performed by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission says that surrounding roads will consequently see a volume reduction. For example, DeKalb Pike between Route 63 and Route 309 in Montgomery Township will decrease from 31,900 to 15,800.
"Now, a mother can make it home 15 minutes earlier to prepare dinner or a father can catch his child's at-bat in the little league game," said State Rep. Kate Harper (61st District). "That's what this project is all about."
The 8.4 mile road runs as a four-lane highway between Route 63 (Welsh Road) and Route 463 (Horsham Road) in Montgomery Township, Montgomery County, and a two-lane road between Route 463 and Route 611 in Bucks County.
There are 10 signalized intersections located at:
- Route 202 (DeKalb Pike)
- Route 63 (Welsh Road)
- Knapp Road
- Connector ramp to Route 309
- Costco Dr.
- Route 463 (Horsham Road)
- County Line Road
- Route 152 (Limekiln Pike)
- Bristol Road
- Lower State Road
The signalized road is quite different from the orginally proposed four-lane expressway that would have connected Montgomeryville and Doylestown, with ramped exits situated along the bypass. The $465 million bypass was too costly for a Gov. Ed Rendell administration facing a $6 billion budget shortfall in 2004, so the project was shelved.
During his remarks, Cawley singled out State Rep. Kathy Watson for keeping the project alive during this time.
"This day should be called Kathy Watson Day," said Cawley. "The expense ground this project to a halt, but she would not allow it to stay there."
After reviewing the project, PennDOT formed a task force in April 2005 that reviewed and refined the project and eventually produced a plan for the $200 million parkway.
Given the greenlight by the task force, PennDOT spent the next two years presenting the plan to the public, completing an Environmental Evaluation Report, obtaining the necessary permits for the project and awarding bids to contractors. Finally, in November 2008, the shovels hit the ground.
As the construction got underway, work continued on the final designs to create an aesthetically pleasing landscape for the parkway. A wetland mitigation area was created near Kansas Road in Warrington to offset the impact of the project on natural habitats. More than 72,000 plantings were installed along the parkway, including tree, bushes, perennials and natural ground cover.
Earlier this year, State Senators Stewart Greenleaf and Chuck McIlhinney co-authored a bill signed by Governor Tom Corbett that designated the 202 Parkway a scenic byway, prohibiting the use of billboards and large advertising signs within view of the parkway.
"I'm looking forward to driving this road and looking at it," said Greenleaf. "The landscape will be something people will appreciate as they drive it."