It appears that in addition to a new Dave’s Marketplace, which is a certainty, Wildes Corner will get another traffic light – and Spring Grove Avenue, just as the neighbors have lobbied for, won’t be used as an egress and access to a redeveloped former Benny’s site.
The traffic signal is key to whether the access, which Benny’s didn’t use when it owned the property, remains closed under the terms of the lease the new property owner, Carpionato Group, has with Dave’s.
“What a relief,” Maureen McNamara said of the State Traffic Commission vote Wednesday to grant approval for the light. A resident of Spring Grove, McNamara rallied the neighborhood in opposition to opening the access and was in attendance at the commission meeting.
“It’s been closed for 20 years. There’s no point for the fire department having it,” she said when asked if it might be left for emergency purposes.
Neighborhood concerns were raised when the access was repaved and it appeared it would be used. It is closed with a locked gate.
News last summer that Dave’s would renovate the former Benny’s and move its store from West Shore Road was greeted with enthusiasm, but then access from Spring Grove became the issue.
Neighbors expressed the concern that to circumvent traffic delays at Wildes Corner and with an interior connection between the plaza with Dollar General and O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, motorists would cut through the Dave’s lot and onto Spring Grove. Spring Grove is a dead end.
In meetings with the residents and at hearings before the City Council, which approved the rezoning of the back of the former Benny’s lot to open space, Carpionato president Kelly Coates pledged the company would pay for the light if approved by the state.
But developers don’t just get to put up traffic signals on state roads. It’s not quite as simple as that.
In what Coates said is a remarkably short period, the state traffic commission deemed the addition of a signal on West Shore Road near Rite Aid a “worthwhile project.”
Coates explained commission approval now takes the project to the next step – a PAP (physical alternation project) that needs Department of Transportation approval. The PAP will address drainage and other alterations to be made in connection with the light. Coates estimated engineering of the plan could be completed in about 90 days. Assuming DOT approval, Carpionato would then post a bond and work could start.
Charles St. Martin, spokesman for the DOT, said Friday that Carpionato would pay for the light and any related road improvements. The light is to be synchronized with the West Shore Road signal at the Sandy Lane intersection.
St. Martin said the approval doesn’t carry a deadline either for the commencement of the project or its completion. City conditions placed on its approvals require closure of the access given approval of the light.
Both McNamara and Coates lauded city efforts to gain state approval of the light.
McNamara said that Councilman Anthony Sinapi, although he does not represent Ward 6, wrote a letter to the commission on their behalf. She is also appreciative of Lucas Murray of the planning department, who attended Wednesday’s commission meeting and fielded questions from the residents during the hearing process. She also mentioned the commission, which she said moved up its agenda to consider the Carpionato request when it was apparent there was interest from the audience.
Coates said Mayor Joseph Solomon, City Council President Steve Merolla and Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis all pushed for commission approval of the light.
“I’m very appreciative of their support,” Coates said. “There’s going to be a signal there…success has many fathers.”