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State needs for county land for I-81 eixt

May 23, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation needs about three acres of land from Franklin County to move forward with the $12.6 million Exit 17 project, but the Board of County Commissioners wants a number of questions answered before a deal is struck.

"The only thing right now that is keeping us from going to construction is resolution of the right-of-way issue," PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said Thursday.

The state is offering the county $10,000 for 2.9 acres of its land on Franklin Farm Lane. Last week the Chambersburg Borough Council agreed to sell 1.35 acres of land PennDOT needs for the exit for $30,000.

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A May 8 letter from county attorney Welton J. Fischer to PennDOT, however, outlined the county's concerns about the cost of adapting its properties if the interchange results in increased traffic on Franklin Farm Lane, where the county has a nursing home, prison, human services building and other offices, along with the Pennsylvania State Police barrack.

The letter asked PennDOT if the changes would require the county to build sidewalks for pedestrians and replace the Falling Spring bridge to accommodate heavier traffic.

There also were questions about redirecting heavy truck traffic off the lane, access for county employees and emergency vehicles, changes to the lane's intersection with U.S. 30 and other safety issues.

"The potential cost to the county may be much greater and very likely not resolvable by writing a check," Fischer wrote. The letter said the county needs information from PennDOT to "identify the problem issues ... and input on the extent to which PennDOT is willing to help resolve problem issues."

"I think the questions we've asked were bona fide questions about future costs the county might incur," County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said Thursday. "PennDOT has not communicated with us up to this point. The dynamics of the study and the process they're referring to has changed because of the Route 30 widening project," which also will affect traffic on Franklin Farm Lane.

"In terms of their offer, we've not taken a position and won't until they've answered our questions," Elliott said. If the issue is not resolved through negotiations, the state could claim the land under eminent domain, according to Elliott.

"I don't think anyone's a winner under that scenario," he said.

"Traffic projections are essentially the same for Franklin Farm Lane with or without the new interchange," Barry G. Hoffman, the District 8 engineer for PennDOT, responded in a letter dated Monday. "In fact the peak hour volumes in the year 2016 ... will be slightly less with the new interchange" based on traffic studies done during the project development process.

"It is unfortunate the county did not actively participate during this process and therefore these concerns could not be addressed until this time," Hoffman wrote. Any increase in traffic along the road will come from "normal growth and development in the Franklin Farm Lane area south of this project," he wrote.

Elliott, a commissioner since 1996, said none of the current board members were in office when planning for the exit began. Congress approved funding for it in 1987.

PennDOT had not been in contact with the current board about the interchange until it made the request for the right-of-way, according to Elliott.

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