Last month, TTF met with SEPTA, HDR Engineering, Inc., and Abington Township representatives to review and tour the construction site and plans for the Jenkintown Electric Power Project, a new SEPTA electrical substation replacement along East Baeder Creek in Abington, adjacent to the Jenkintown Wyncote Station.
According to Mark Penecale, Abington Township Planning & Zoning Officer, “it is important to note that Abington Township has required SEPTA to obtain review and approval from the Montgomery County Conservation District, Department of Environmental Protection, US Department of the Interior, Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA. Abington has also included Jenkintown Borough and Cheltenham Township in the design, review and approval process. Although this project will only be visible from the 10 properties on Stewart Avenue within Abington Township, it shares a property line with over 30 properties in Jenkintown Borough and could have had an impact of storm water flows into Cheltenham Township.
“This project has been in the design stages for over two years. With the help of the agencies involved, it appears that issues relating to storm water run-off, soil erosion, water quality, the 100 year flood plain, safety, access and esthetics have been addressed. This project still has to receive the approval of the Zoning Hearing Board of the Township of Abington before any type of construction permit can be considered. This has been a long and detailed process, that is only at the ¾ pole at this point. As Abington Township’s Zoning Office and a resident of Montgomery County, I want to thank everyone that has taken their time and energies to review and comment on this project. It is not very often that you have a project that involves three municipalities and the number of Federal and State agencies that this project has involved.”
Presented with the project plans, TTF Board member Kelly O’Day shared two main concerns:
Because the site is within the 100-year flood plain, during a large rainstorm the substation could flood, which could possibly contaminate the creek. HDR Engineering, Inc. answered this concern by sharing current modeling maps that show that the construction location was actually an “island” in the flood plain, so flooding during a 100-year rainstorm is not an issue. But just in case, a retaining wall will be built which allows raising the substation further, above the 100-year and 500-year flood plain elevations.
The project requires a steep tarmac access road, which would create more stormwater runoff for the creek. During a large rainstorm the rain that hits the road could rush down into the creek. HDR Engineering, Inc. has addressed this concern by constructing bioretention areas (areas that can hold and slow down water) at the bottom of the access ramp and along the roadside.
TTF provided HDR Engineering, Inc. with a project review letter.
After TTF’s concerns were addressed, the group “hit the tracks” to visit the area. Donning neon yellow work vests, we were able to see the current historic substation, explore the different options that HDR Engineering, Inc. considered, and see the condition of the creek.
Unlike Philadelphia, where the creek is mainly channeled underground or found within parks, in Montgomery County communities, the creek runs right through people’s backyards. Property owners along the creek have the power to control what happens on their land, which means they can have a positive influence on creek health. This makes watershed and water health education for property owners extra important.
The tour was a valuable opportunity to learn about the design process, the project site and East Baeder Creek. By being part of the project review, TTF is able to advocate for the creek, which can’t talk on it’s own!
Thank you to SEPTA, HDR Engineering, Inc. and Abington Township for arranging for this meeting and tour.
For more information on TTF’s upcoming projects and events, visit our Upcoming Events page.
By Molly Finch, TTF Educator