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Villanova Responds to Concerns about Campus Project

Do you have concerns about the proposed buildings? Read this document for answers from the university.

Radnor Township's administration and residents have many questions about on its campus.

Dozens of questions and comments were sent to the school a few months ago, and recently replied to each question and comment in a document (in the pdf section of this article).

Topics include parking, stormwater management and a pedestrian bridge across Lancaster Avenue.

Just a few comments from the 39-page document include:

Q: The deck location as proposed, combined with the new dorms, will add much more traffic and many more pedestrians to the Ithan/Lancaster intersection. Radnor Police are already frequently and routinely needed to control this intersection throughout the year, and have become an indispensable element of VU's basic function thereby. Who is paying for their services, and how much?

A: The proposed Design Concept for Lancaster Avenue will reduce traffic in the area since more than 1,100 current students who are currently commuting daily to and from the University will now be living on campus. The number of students crossing the intersection will not change significantly as a result of the Design Concept. Villanova University pays for the services of Radnor Township Police who control the intersection of Lancaster and Ithan Avenues during events, and will continue doing so.

Q: With the proposed parking structure how many parking spaces would be available?

A: The parking structure has space for 1,800 cars and the residential development site has approximately 206 surface parking spaces planned.

Q: How many means of means of egress for the new parking structure?

A: There are three (3) means of egress planned from the parking structure at this time, however, the plan is still evolving.

Q: With regards to the intersection at Ithan and Lancaster, we were promised an over or under pedestrian bridge at the time that the West Campus dorms were approved. What happened to that pledge? Certainly one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that, if you add 1,160 students to the south side of Ithan, an already too long traffic light is only going to get worse. In addition to students from the proposed new dorms, if a bookstore and café are built, then some or all of the students from the north and west sides of campus could also be crossing at that light. If one lowered the number of cycles so that it only accommodated cars, one would presumably reduce the time to get through the light. By eliminating walkers, you might also improve the flow of vehicles on local Route 30 as it sluggishly meanders through the town of Villanova. We currently have more hang up there than we do waiting for the traffic leaving Route 476 further down the road because they must have had federally traffic mandates, and you do not.

A: The safety of students, employees and visitors has always the utmost priority Villanova University. The elements within the Design Concept for Lancaster Avenue reinforce that commitment, as does the thorough input and participation of the independent architects, engineers and traffic consultants engaged as part of the project team.

The project will not result in an increase in pedestrian activity during weekday AM and PM peak hours. During these times when both Lancaster Avenue and Ithan Avenue are most heavily traveled by vehicles, the number of pedestrian crossings will be the same whether the existing 1,159 students commute and park in the lots or live in the proposed residence halls. With the students living on campus, there may by some additional pedestrian crossings during the middle of the school day, however traffic at these times will be significantly less than at the peak hours. The location of the Bookstore will mean that fewer students will have to cross Lancaster Avenue to use it vs. the current condition.
Similar to the intersection of Wayne and Lancaster Avenues, the intersection of Lancaster and Ithan Avenues features an “all red pedestrian scramble phase” wherein all traffic is stopped so pedestrians can cross Lancaster Avenue or Ithan Ave anywhere through the intersection. The entire width of the intersection essentially becomes one very large crosswalk allowing for an enormous capacity to move pedestrians; much more than if pedestrians were confined to just crosswalks alone. Because of this design, the intersection will be able to absorb additional pedestrian activity without any need for added pedestrian phase green time or any other measure. The current pedestrian crossing at Lancaster and Ithan Avenuea is not unsafe nor would it be in the future due to the Design Concept for Lancaster Avenue.

In 1990, Resolution No. 90-04 regarding the West Campus dormitories included a provision whereby the University was to completely engineer plans for a pedestrian bridge, use best efforts to obtain approvals of the plans from PennDOT and any other governmental agencies, and use best efforts to complete construction of the bridge on or before occupancy of the dormitories.
After investigation of a pedestrian bridge or tunnel, a tunnel crossing was designed in conformance with the Resolution at a cost to the University of approximately $1 million. Most of the people involved at the University, the Township, and PennDOT are no longer employed there and records are incomplete; therefore it’s not completely clear why the work stopped. The University’s understanding is that the reasons why the infrastructure improvements were not provided remain the same today as they did then. First, the existing topography of the area does not lend itself to grade-separation for pedestrians. Essentiallymore ‘work’ is added to the pedestrians’ path by either requiring them to walk up (or down) dozens of steps (or very long ramps) to achieve the necessary 15+ feet of grade separation. Pedestrian traffic is like water – it seeks the path of least resistance, which in this case would be the shorter, less difficult, at-grade crossing at the traffic signal. Therefore, it can be assumed that a bridge/tunnel was never constructed in part because the authorities recognized that a great number of pedestrians would continue to cross the street at the intersection, thereby requiring that a pedestrian phase be provided regardless of whether or not a tunnel or bridge was installed.

In addition, introducing a bridge across Lancaster Avenue carries with it new safety concerns, such as bridge abutments obstructing views of pedestrians by vehicles, creating a false impression to drivers that there will not be pedestrians crossing the street, and items potentially falling off of the bridge. Bridge and/or tunnel construction will create extended traffic issues during construction, which may also be a reason why such a crossing was never fully pursued previously.
It is also important to note that a bridge or tunnel will not eliminate the current status of the intersection or eliminate pedestrian crossings at grade.

Q: The height of the proposed structures. The height of the dorms far exceeds established zoning restrictions and as such will dominate the visual sight lines of our neighborhood. The three story dorm on the Ithan Avenue South Campus blends nicely with the neighborhood and I would therefore request that Villanova consider a similar height for their new dorms.

A: The proposed design provides for effective and efficient use of this area of the University’s property. The structure heights are a result of design investigations to accommodate the targeted student occupancy while maintaining a college residential atmosphere. Varying building heights create architectural variety and visual interest.

H. Thomson July 18, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Well said, indeed. I intend to continue to attend future public meetings about this myself and encourage others to do so. As has been said before, this is too important a project for Radnor residents to ignore. No matter which side of the issue they're on. It's also too important a project for folks who haven't taken the time to thoroughly investigate the issues to blindly speculate about. So, go to meetings, read ALL of the the residents' questions and ALL of the Villanova responses, talk to your township representatives and your neighbors, etc.. Then, DISCUSS (not argue) the benefits and/or the negatives. Basically, be an intelligent, informed resident and then everyone will be more satisfied with the outcome. Especially those of us who live and work here and are, therefore, most directly affected by this project. P.S. Sam, thanks for trying to keep everyone on track and focused on the issues.
H. Thomson July 18, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Sam, Seriously, now not-so-thinly veiled threats about editors and trailing IP addresses! This is beyond someone not having civil conversation. Enough is enough.
Enuf NIMBYs July 18, 2012 at 11:27 PM
SOLUTION: 1. ALL voting age VU students residing in Radnor, either on or off campus, register to vote in Radnor Twp.; 2. On election day, these newly registered VU students turn out and vote for the pro-development Twp. Council candidates and/or against the known NIMBYs. Same for the Zoning Board; 3. If no known pro-development candidates are running, get enough eligible students on the ballot to flip the balance on these governing bodies: 4. Put the University's proposal as the only item on the agenda of the first official meeting and pass it; 5. Resign your positions and resume your lives as before. OR stay on and continue providing a much-needed voice for the University in YOUR local govt. It's estimated that about 10K VU students live in Radnor. The voting age is 18. Do the math.
Nationer July 20, 2012 at 11:20 PM
As a villanova student, I am ecstatic to hear that our campus will be expanding. It is also quite nice to know that future students will be able to live on campus, instead of trying to deal with renting houses and apartments in Radnor--I think everyone can agree that college students can push the boundaries of their neighbors. This project will make our campus more beautiful, make the university more competitive in a national arena, and benefit Radnor township as a whole. As the university improves, as does the surrounding area simply because of the sheer number of students spending their money locally. The technicalities of zoning, traffic, etc. will be figured out by the experts; rest assured, everything taking place will be approved by all the proper committees. GO CATS!
DM July 23, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Wow, these are some crazy questions. Move a cemetery? really? (see 143). 152 - why would you think you aren't allowed to go to places on campus? 153/154 sorry about your candy and Christmas lights... sheesh.

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