For the past few months, extensive construction in the area of the Ville near the college has been disrupting the lives of local residents and college students alike. Part of the construction currently underway near PPR will change the current layout of the streets into a roundabout in order to reduce traffic in the area at peak travel times. According to an article in the Swarthmorean, the borough’s local newspaper, there has been a noticeable amount of public backlash regarding the construction project. The daily lives of students, especially those living in Palmer, Pittenger and Roberts halls, have been affected by the noise and pollution caused by the construction work. Several sections of the sidewalks into the borough of Swarthmore have been closed off.
All of this construction, according to PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, is part of a project to improve infrastructure in the town of Swarthmore. But a lawsuit was filed last week in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania that sought to halt the construction of the roundabout. The following Monday, the standing-room Borough Council heard an unusual number of complaints from Swarthmore residents regarding the lawsuit and the construction project.
In the Swarthmorean, several community members expressed disappointment that there was another lawsuit because it would only serve to further delay completion of the construction project. In addition, Republican State Representative Joe Hackett paid a visit to the construction site on September 10 and has since proposed legislation that would “promote a greater level of review of high occupancy permit applications for large scale projects,” which would require procedures such as holding a public forum to hear complaints from residents if the project affects a significant number of people from more than one municipality.
The construction project has impacted more than just the lives of politicians and policymakers in the community. Many local residents of Swarthmore also feel strongly about these new construction projects. Miguel Florez, a Swarthmore resident, called the traffic circle construction “completely inconvenient. You get blindsided by the backhoes when he’s shaking off his dirt and whatnot. [And] did they have to cut down all those old trees?” Regarding the execution and planning of the project itself, Florez said, “It [is] very ill-managed. They start too early and wake you up.”
Swarthmore students are also feeling the effects of this large-scale construction project, but described them as being minor, if somewhat inconvenient.
“[It] disrupts my biking route to campus during the day, because I can’t use the sidewalk on Chester Road, but if there aren’t any workers on the site I just use the sidewalk anyway,” said Murphy Austin ‘16. He also noted that the sprawling construction also affects the quality of dorm life.
“It’s very noticeable from PPR,” said Austin. “Loud construction noise during the day and all the cones, fences, and trucks [are always] hanging around just outside.”
It remains to be seen whether or not the pending lawsuit will affect the completion date for the construction of the roundabout.