Power company said it was ahead of schedule, but all work on site stopped June 19
Updated: 4:45 p.m. includes comment from PECO
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
POCOPSON — The township’s ongoing project to build a roundabout at the intersection of Route 52, Unionville-Lenape and Wawaset roads has been to be delayed by as much as six weeks — or more — because of a possible failure by PECO to coordinate the move of its utility poles from what would be the middle of the roadway, multiple sources told The Times Monday.
The company responded late Monday and said that it was actually ahead of schedule — claiming that the relocation work was slated to be completed on August 11, and it is now taking place on Wednesday. That account is at variance with information supplied to The Times and correspondence between the power utility and the PennDOT contractor building the roundabout.
Although originally scheduled to be complete by the end of September or early October, now, the unofficial estimates suggest that the roundabout will not open much before Thanksgiving.
PECO had more than a year of notice of the project and were kept updated by project managers from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) as well as RoadCon, the contractor building the roundabout.
Although PECO appears to have finally moved to address the issue — plans are for an Aug. 6 move of the current wires from the old utility poles to new ones — the power company’s inability to schedule the move brought the project to a near standstill on June 19.
A PECO spokesperson, Catherine Engle Menendez said that work began on the site on July 14, as scheduled.
“After the contractor was selected, work began on July 14, the original date that work was set to begin,” she said. “Work was stopped for one to two days due to severe storms that impacted the service territory. Our first and foremost job is always to safely keep the lights on for our customers. All resources were assigned to emergent storm restoration activities and once restoration was complete, work resumed on the regularly scheduled timeframe.”
However, that account would appear to be in variance with activity at the site last week, where no PECO vehicles or personnel were on scene — only workers from Verizon were working.
A Verizon employee working on the site, who spoke on condition of not being identified, as he is not authorized to issue information, said last week that PECO’s failures “brought things to a stop.” The PECO lines must be moved first before other cabling from companies such as Verizon, Comcast and Sunyses can be moved. Other government sources confirmed this account. Numerous residents have complained to township officials as well as the office of State Rep. Steve Barrar, whose office has worked to sort out the scheduling snafu.
What does appear to be clear at this point is that work is going to now resume.
Power is expected to be shut off for some time on Aug. 6 to customers on Wawaset Road, including The Pocopson Home and Chester County Prison. The work is not expected to impact homes to the north on Rt. 52.
According to documents obtained by The Times, PECO had put the project out to bid with a projected start date of July 14 — which would have meant nearly a month delay in the project — but for reasons that remain unclear, work still hasn’t been restarted. The bids were opened on June 26, and reportedly, PECO officials were going to seek to get the winning contractor to start work early. Instead, it appears that there was a three-week delay instead.
The PECO lines sit in the middle of what would be the northern approach to the roundabout — and while all of the surrounding soil has been removed, because the utility lines remain, a large mound continues to sit there. Until those lines are moved, no further work can be done — and has been done since about June 19.
One other issue could delay the project: because of unforeseen issues, more work will need to be done on the small bridge on Rt. 52 just south of the roundabout. While the work itself can be done at the same time as the roundabout work, it is dependent on a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Assuming the permit is issued in a timely fashion, the extra bridge work shouldn’t further delay the opening.
The $2.1 million roundabout project has been a source of frustration for many area residents, as traffic has been forced onto smaller, neighborhood roadways, and traffic has been diverted. Traffic backups at Pocopson Road and Rt. 52 and Pocopson Road and Rt. 926 have been common during rush hours.
Some of the issues in that area have caused local officials to push for a traffic light to be installed at Pocopson Road/West Creek Road and Rt. 52 before the planned replacement of the Rt. 926 bridge over the Brandywine Creek, currently slated to start sometime in early 2015.