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Not an Illusion
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2022-04-13

            Did you ever notice that when you are driving north on Route 29 and entering the borough of Red Hill on Main St., by the time you leave East Greenville it seems that the road had narrowed? 

Prior to 1950 Main Street, through the boroughs of Red Hill,

Pennsburg, and East Greenville were unimproved with the street

cresting to the point where some people felt their cars were

leaning so far they would turn over.

            It isn't an optical illusion, it does. 

            Back in 1949, the boroughs of East Greenville, Pennsburg and Red Hill had a chance to widen the thoroughfare that measured 36-feet wide entering Red Hill and narrows to 34 feet by the time you leave East Greenville, to a width of 38 feet.

            But, that wasn't the main issue with the road back then.  For thirty years, officials had been complaining to the state about the high crown in the road causing drivers to think their vehicles might roll over at some spots in the three boroughs.

            In June of 1949, the Pennsylvania State Highway Department (PSHD) announced that a new "highway" would be built through the three boroughs.  The announcement was made at a Montgomery County Commissioners meeting with the caveat that the commissioners notify the borough officials in order to meet and discuss the width of Main Street.

Main Street, entering Red Hill, is at its' widest at the southern

end of town

            It would be up to the three borough councils whether they wanted the engineers to prepare a plan for a 38-foot width or the existing width of 34 to 36 feet.

            By July 1, 1949, all three borough councils turned down the option of a uniform widening of Main St. to 38 feet.  While the state was paying for the new highway, the cost of relocating water and power lines, as well as installing curbs was too cost-prohibitive for the boroughs. 

The PSHD engineer noted that the 34 to 36-foot width could be maintained if parking were restricted to one side only.  He also noted that East Greenville had seven and eight-foot sidewalks along Main St. and Pennsburg and Red Hill had five-and-a-half-foot sidewalks. He added that the 38-foot roadway would take a foot-and-a-half off the sidewalks in Red Hill and Pennsburg, and two feet in East Greenville.

            And, of course, utility property would have to be moved as well at the expense of the utility.  The water systems in Red Hill and East Greenville were municipally owned meaning they would have to pay the bill.

            The engineer also stated that the railroad bridge at the south end of Pennsburg would need to be lowered to improve sight distances.  He also noted that other changes

When coming through Pennsburg into East Greenville Main

Street narrows.

on the approaches to the bridge would need to be made to accommodate the new highway.  His closing comment probably worried the officials the most: "We'll design accordingly and discuss the damages later."

            When the cost estimate to the boroughs came in at $106,772 (above the cost of building the roadway, which the state would pay for) officials decided they couldn't afford that amount and went back to the state in hopes of getting them to pick up part of the tab. 

Broken down, the amounts were: Pennsburg, $58,124; Red Hill, $36,000; and East Greenville, $12,645.  And, that was the cost without widening Main Street.  Pennsburg's cost would include a new retaining wall for the access to the railroad bridge which was needed in any design.  The Reading Railroad had already indicated that they would not pay for any work on or approaching the bridge.

            Even without widening the road, the project seemed doomed.

            By February of 1950, local groups and organizations were trying to figure out how to get financing to help with the boroughs' expenses – with no success. At the same time, state officials were meeting to discuss the changes suggested to the railroad bridge.

            By March 1950, the bids for the project were ready to go out.

            The boroughs still weren't able to raise the funds needed for their share of the costs.  With a project so long in the making, the Montgomery County Commissioners stepped in to persuade the state to pick up a share of the boroughs' expenses, with the county paying for the remainder. 

It is good to note the efforts of Montgomery County Commissioner's Chairman (and Town and Country publisher) Foster C. Hillegass in striking the deal.

            In 1950 Main Street, through the three boroughs, finally became a paved road.


 

 

 

 

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