Lafayette Street Extension Project
Alleviating traffic congestion and spurring economic development in Montgomery County, Pa.
Our Client’s Challenge
Norristown is the seat for Montgomery County, Pa., one of the commonwealth’s most populous and prosperous counties.
However, the borough faced a dwindling population and declining commercial activity. Among the reasons for the decline were inadequate roadways and a need for regional access points. The limited roadway network made vehicle access to Norristown time-consuming and created a disadvantage compared to other suburban areas.
Montgomery County conceived the Lafayette Street Extension Project to create transformative infrastructure improvements of road and highway access into downtown Norristown and neighboring Plymouth Township by making faster and more convenient connections to the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-276) and other nearby highways while creating pedestrian and traffic safety improvements in the borough.
Gannett Fleming provided final design, right-of-way acquisition services, and construction consultation for widening and reconstructing Lafayette Street from Barbadoes to Ford Streets. The one-mile reconstruction accommodates four travel lanes, turning lanes, on-street parking, improved sidewalks, and the reconstruction of the Schuylkill River Trail and the Chester Valley Trail between DeKalb and Ford Streets.
Roadway reconstruction created a visually pleasing urban boulevard, including a landscaped median section, to replace a drab two-way street. It dramatically improves access to downtown businesses and amenities, including a reinvigorated park along the Schuylkill River, while enhancing community walkability. New street-side parking facilities also improve accessibility.
The project also included preparing the at-grade railroad crossing on Ford Street, which crosses Lafayette Street, to install the first-ever four-quadrant railroad gate in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) rail system. The gate system features barriers that block the roadway on both sides of the tracks for both directions of traffic, preventing vehicles from driving around the gates when a train is approaching.
Distinctive Park Amenities
The project also upgraded the linear park parallel to Lafayette Street. Our design team created a distinctive tiered retaining-wall system for outdoor seating alongside a trail junction center at the new connection of the Chester Valley Trail and Schuylkill River Trail. The forward-thinking design aligns with plans to develop the center as a community arts and recreation facility.
Connecting the Trails
The project relocated a portion of the 75-mile Schuylkill River Trail, which includes 18 miles in Montgomery County, and created a connection with the Chester Valley Trail, which extends more than 14 miles into Chester County. The connection improves access to both trails for thousands of hikers, runners, and cyclists who use them each year.
Complex Culvert Replacement
Adding to the project’s complexity was replacing portions of an outdated culvert with six different structures running underneath the site. A four-sided precast concrete box culvert approximately 186 feet long with a clear span of 21 feet constituted the core of the replacement, with skew angles of between 48 and 65 degrees. Cast-in-place box culvert sections approximately 16 to 20 feet long connect the new culvert to the existing downstream culvert and the upstream raceway walls of Saw Mill Run.
Enhancing Community Safety
The project delivers significant safety benefits to residents and visitors. The reconstruction of a traffic island alongside the Norristown Transportation Center improves access to SEPTA bus and regional rail service for the more than 2,000 travelers who use the facility each weekday. The island provides ample space for taxis and other vehicles to safely drop off and pick up passengers without interference from Lafayette Street traffic.
Accessible crossings at nine Lafayette Street intersections enhance pedestrian travel throughout the corridor. The installation of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-accessible, pedestrian-activated signal mid-block on Lafayette Street near pedestrian-only Strawberry Alley improves safety and convenience for those walking to and from the Montgomery County Courthouse and other downtown destinations. Pedestrians press a button to activate rapid rectangular flashing beacons at the crossing, which increases visibility and improves the yield rates of approaching drivers.
Supporting County Sustainability Objectives
The stormwater management design included improving the existing roadway collection system and incorporating five separate bio-infiltration areas adjacent to Lafayette Street. The new features address stormwater quality, quantity, and rate control for the increase in impervious surfaces, helping keep polluted runoff out of the Schuylkill River in support of Montgomery County’s sustainability goals.
- Widened Lafayette Street.
- Reconstructed Schuylkill River Trail and Chester Valley Trail.
- New four-quadrant at-grade railroad crossing on Ford Street.
- Upgraded linear park.
Awards & Recognition
- Awards. This web part is hidden.
- Spurs economic revitalization by improving access to downtown Norristown and the industrial areas of Plymouth Township from the PA Turnpike.
- Provides traffic management and congestion relief by reducing trucks along Main Street, creating two-way access to the riverfront at Ford Street, and easing congestion along Ridge Pike.
- Improves trail and pedestrian connections with wide sidewalks, upgrades near SEPTA’s Norristown Transportation Center, and better accessibility to the Schuylkill River and Chester Valley Trails.
- Improves pedestrian safety and convenience.
- Mitigates polluted runoff into the Schuylkill River in support of Montgomery County’s sustainability objectives.
Montgomery County, Pa.
Final design, right-of-way acquisition services, and construction consultation