Somerton discusses potential increase in traffic

If you ask Somerton residents about vehicle traffic in their neighborhood, they’ll say it’s already a big problem.

At the May 10 meeting of the Somerton Civic Association, residents learned that traffic might be getting a lot worse in the months to come.

A housing project in neighboring Bensalem and a new pharmaceutical distribution facility at the southern end of the community will potentially bring hundreds of additional cars and big rigs through Somerton every day.

The Teva Pharmaceuticals distribution center on the former site of the Island Green golf course on Red Lion Road is a “done deal,” SCA officers said. Meanwhile, the Bensalem Township Council on May 9 gave its go-ahead for the development of 175 townhouses on the northern bank of the Poquessing Creek.

“I don’t think the Bensalem Township Council took much into consideration except the developer’s interests,” said Dan Lodise, chief of staff to state Rep. Brendan Boyle, whose 170th Legislative District includes Somerton and abuts the townhouse project site.

The new houses are to be built by K. Hovnanian Homes in a 46-acre wooded area just north of and across the creek from Somerton’s Londontown section. It will be just east of a CSX freight railroad and in close proximity to the ongoing Arbors at Eagle Pointe development on the former Byberry Hospital site.

The Bensalem project, which is to include two new roads built over wetlands, was twice rejected by the township’s planning commission, but adopted by the council anyway, Lodise said. The council vote was three in favor and two against, with both opposing votes cast by the two council members who are up for re-election this year.

Somerton residents fear that rustic and narrow Trevose Road will be used as a primary outlet street for the new development, although the SCA board has confirmed that there will not be any new spans of the Poquessing Creek leading directly into the Londontown area.

To make matters worse, a smaller housing project by another developer is underway less than a half-mile away at the intersection of Trevose and Somerton roads.

Meanwhile, tractor-trailers are the big concern of neighbors at the southern end of Somerton, near Red Lion and Pine roads. SCA treasurer Pat Cantwell reported that Teva executives have told city officials and civic association board members that the new warehouse facility will see 200 inbound and outbound trucks each day at the start. And the traffic is expected to grow over time.

Among public officials who have participated in a series of private meetings with company executives and neighbors, only a representative from the city’s Department of Streets voiced opposition to the proposed configuration of the site, Cantwell said.

“The city’s streets department seems to be the only one who’s negative about it. They’re going to start construction this summer,” Cantwell said. “The traffic is going to be a nightmare.”

In addition to the delivery trucks, the site will have about 250 employees arriving and departing each day.

Local and state government officials, including state Sen. Mike Stack, lured Teva to Somerton with $4.7 million in public funding and tax credits. The 1.2 million-square-foot complex will include two 85-foot-high storage buildings and one 45-foot-high distribution building.

The Island Green golf course was built about a decade ago as a brownfield reclamation project on the site of the former Budd Company railroad car manufacturing plant.

• The next Somerton Civic Association meeting will be on Tuesday, June 14, at 7:30 p.m., at Walker Lodge 306, 1290 Southampton Road.

Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or bkenny@bsmphilly.com