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Radnor Planners Reject New Villanova University Garage

The Radnor Township Planning Commission rejected a proposed new four-story tall parking garage on the Villanova University campus.

The new garage would replace a two-story garage, VU lawyer Nicholas Caniglia told the Planning Commissioners on Feb. 6. The current steel and concrete structure, off Ithan Avenue,  is nearing the end of its useful life and sports signs saying “Park at your own risk.”

The university will require zoning variances for the building’s 52.7-foot height and additional setbacks from the property boundaries to build the new garage. It would add 232 parking spaces, said Mary Lou Smith, VU assistant vice president for engineering and construction.

Current Villanova parking garage

Caniglia said the school requires additional parking to comply with the township code for other possible projects in its long-term plan. VU Assistant Vice President Chris Kovolski insisted that Villanova has no plans to increase its enrollment. Instead, he said more students want to live on campus, so more dorm rooms will likely be needed.  Villanova has 6,700 undergraduates and 3,100 graduate and law students.

Planning Commission Chair M.J. Frumin noted that the university had just been before the commission in November with plans for a new library, which was approved.

“With all due respect, you’re planning to add dorms,” said Frumin. “That, to me, screams more people.”

Frumin told the VU officials he thinks they will have “a challenging time” proving a hardship needed for a zoning variance.

Resident Sara Pilling was concerned about traffic in the area, particularly the narrow SEPTA underpass on Ithan Avenue, where only one car at a time can pass.

“It’s dicey at the very best of times,” said Pilling.  “I have a deep concern. If they build 232 parking spaces, what is going to happen to that pinch-point?”

Ward 7 Commissioner Sean Farhy is concerned about the height of the proposed garage and also light pollution.

“It’s going to be too close for comfort (to residential neighborhoods),” he said. He suggested adding a parking deck underground to reduce the building’s height, but Smith told him that there were too many utilities.

Roberta Winters, another resident, said, “What happens at Villanova does not stay in Villanova. It impacts the greater Township. Among Radnor’s most pervasive problems are traffic, parking, and stormwater. Replacing the existing parking garage with one that is 53 feet high and holds 405 vehicles may reduce a parking concern, but it is bound to impact traffic, congestion, and create potential environmental issues.”

Winters said, “The garage site is problematic because of its location.  Ithan Avenue is already a busy thoroughfare between Lancaster and Montgomery avenues. The intersection with County Line Road at this spot is particularly hazardous.”  She also mentioned the narrow SEPTA bridge, saying traffic studies should be done.

Winters said neighbors were told that no more parking would be needed with the approval of dorms and an entertainment center on the south side of Lancaster Avenue a few years ago.

“If the university can collaborate to find parking for the Pope’s last visit, they should be able to find spaces at off-peak hours from other existing commercial and institutional spaces in the area. In addition to creative scheduling, shuttles, and even car services are always an option,” she said.

Winters was also concerned about environmental issues, such as stormwater runoff.

“I fear Villanova is eating those who live here, the properties that we own, and the quality of life we value, one bite at a time.  This is an opportunity for you to say, enough is enough,” she said.

Residents Tish Long and Rick Leonardi wrote to the planners expressing similar concerns. Leonardi also believes that some homeowners nearby who should have been notified of the university’s plans, were not.

“What we’re hearing is a tremendous amount of opposition from the public,” said Frumin.

The Radnor Zoning Hearing Board is scheduled to take up the VU parking garage appeal at its Feb. 16 meeting.

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Philly Wins the Booby Prize for Drivability

For years, Philadelphia commuters have complained — or even bragged — about having the worst traffic in America.

And now it is official.

Data analysis by ranked Philadelphia dead last on its list of ‘Worst Cities for Driving.’ The site’s study considered factors including traffic volume or congestion, infrastructure, and the cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle. The ‘Bottom 10’ included Los Angeles, Seattle, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Detroit, and Philadelphia, in that order.

What makes driving in and around Philadelphia so angst-inducing? The sheer volume of traffic is an issue, of course. But other factors are in play as well.

Vince Paraveccchia works in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia. Before this year he worked in the Oxford Circle section of the city. Paravecchia cites factors that make his daily commute from Bucks County a challenge.

“Traffic is awful,” he said. “I-95 is an absolute nightmare every morning and afternoon. There’s always a project which is barely being worked on, and it slows everything up and causes countless jams.

“Double the problems if it is raining. I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather drive in a blinding snowstorm in Philly than a foggy, chilly rainstorm. Why? Because many of the bad drivers stay home in the snow.”

Paravecchia notes road conditions, including or especially those on major thoroughfares, add to drivers’ woes.

“There is no road in America I’ve been on worse than the Schuylkill,” he said. “I’ve driven (I-5) near Los Angeles and been a passenger in L.A. I’ve done the entire length of the Garden State Parkway, the George Washington Bridge, and New York City. The Taconic Parkway. I-287 (in New Jersey). Connecticut. Atlanta (been through with my brother but I wasn’t the driver). Florida. D.C., Boston. Pittsburgh. San Diego. They are all better than Philly. The only places that rival Philly are Delaware near Wilmington and the Maryland border (with lots of volume with nowhere to go) and parts of New York City and Boston. But in my opinion, Philadelphia is the most maddening.”

The cost of vehicle maintenance is another source of aggravation for drivers. Jill Gonzalez is a public policy expert for

“One of the reasons Philadelphia is the worst city to drive in is the high cost of ownership and maintenance,” she said. “For example, the city has the third highest average monthly car insurance premium at almost $300.”

Gonzalez cites other factors that add to the stress of driving in the city.

“Philadelphia doesn’t fare well in terms of infrastructure,” she said, “considering the poor quality of bridges where it ranks in the bottom 10. Plus, the city has a significantly higher accident likelihood compared to the national average more specifically, 67 percent higher.”

That accident rate is fueled in part by the sheer volume of traffic on narrow city streets. The problem is magnified by phenomena including drivers who engage in unique driving practices, notably abrupt lane changes, perhaps from the far right to the left-turn lane, often without signaling or refusing to pull forward into an intersection from a left-turn lane.

Vic Monaco, who resides in Bucks County, spoke to the latter issue.

“The constant thing that drives me nuts is drivers who don’t pull halfway into an intersection when waiting to make a turn,” he said. “Not sure if this is taught (it is) but it’s just common sense and courtesy. When they do this, nine times out of 10 they are the only ones who get to make a turn because others don’t get to pull forward either.”

Other common issues are trucks from Amazon, UPS, and other delivery services blocking a lane while the driver makes a delivery, traffic signals that are out of synch resulting in long delays at intersections, and motorists getting caught in the middle of an intersection when the light changes.

Drivers accept situations like those described above as things that go along with urban driving. Gonzalez suggests carpooling as a way to deal with the volume of traffic.

“Carpooling or using public transportation whenever possible are great ways to avoid and reduce traffic congestion,” she said. “That would not only lead to reduced travel time but can also lower the costs of a commute. Biking or walking to work where applicable are other ways to avoid congestion.”

For many drivers, however, carpooling is not an opinion. So, for the time being, motorists are advised to be patient, allow for extra travel time, and hope their patience lasts longer than their commute.

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