Of the many developments resulting from the October 5 Steering Committee Meeting on the Eastern Connector (which would connect the Pantops area to 29N), the most surprising will surely be the decision to reconsider an option that would connect Route 20 to Rio Road, passing right through the heart of Pen Park. What makes it surprising is that the option was actually not even presented at a Steering Committee meeting in August due to doubts whether it would pass muster under Section 4 (f) of the Department of Transportation Act, which requires that public park land can not be used if there is a feasible and prudent alternative.
Last week, the Eastern Connector Steering Committee had news that surely disappoints Sarah Hendley, who has led an organization called the Save Pen Park Committee in order to keep the proposed road from taking park land.
At the October 5 meeting, Lewis Grimm of engineering firm PBS&J took the committee through a series of 13 connector alternatives but when he arrived at the last—an option that took the road in a winding fashion through the outskirts of Pen Park—City Councilor Kevin Lynch took over. “When you talk about impact to the park, 4 (f) will be an issue,” he acknowledged. “The question is, how much of an issue is it? There, it’s significant impact,” he said, contending that as rendered, the connector’s proposed path would actually take up more park land than one straight through the heart of the park.
“I don’t want to see us come up with an alignment that impacts the park more than it needs to,” he said. “If this is gonna fly, it’s only…by minimizing impact.”
Of course, for it to fly, there would have to be no other viable option to going through Pen Park, and as of Friday’s meeting there are currently three others—a relocation of Proffit Road, a Polo Grounds Road Connector, and a combination of significant improvements to 250 along with connections in the city, including one at Meade and High Street—that the committee voted to pursue for public presentation.
Having Pen Park back on the table is unlikely to please the Save Pen Park Committee, an outspoken effort led by resident Sarah Hendley. She and her cohorts will get a chance to give their opinions at a public information meeting that most likely will occur in late November or early December.
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