October 14, 2016
Sharon Rearick will have to wait a little longer until the Bucks County roadway where her son was killed by a hit-and-run driver becomes a little safer.
It was July 22, 2012, when her 23-year-old son John was struck by a red Cadillac as he walked along a stretch of New Falls Road that forms the border between Middletown and Bristol townships. He would die six days later, sustaining several brain bleeds and trauma.
The grief never subsided, but Rearick channeled it into a yearslong effort to get sidewalks installed along that stretch. It was a frustrating process to navigate the political seas but, finally, in February she got unanimous approval from the Bristol Township Council.
While it felt like a victory, getting a standing ovation from that legislative body, she’s still waiting for the project to get underway.
Initially, the plan was to get it started sometime in the summer of 2017. That’s not the case anymore, as Rearick pointed to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation files that state construction on the $1.7 million project won’t start until 2018.
“I’m sad they pushed it back a year,” Rearick told PhillyVoice this week.
People involved in the project want her to know they still have her back.
Charles Metzger, PennDOT’s local community relations coordinator, noted that the agency doesn’t normally handle sidewalk installation projects “unless it’s part of a corridor project.”
The delay, he said, stems from the fact that the project just got formally approved for Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission funding on Oct. 1.
“We started doing initial work already,” Metzger said of preliminary steps taken once Rearick’s proposal got approved by the impacted townships.
George Gumas, of HNTB Corp., is the project manager for the New Falls Road project. He said he’s seen stories about Rearick’s efforts and “we’re in support” of what she’s accomplished.
From a logistical standpoint, though, he said it’s “in a fairly early stage,” with preliminary engineers working to get clearances and approvals from agencies and getting residents whose properties could be impacted by the work informed of what’s to come.
“It has to go through a process,” he said of the delay. “We’re looking to start in spring of 2018.”
For Rearick, it's both frustrating and understandable.
"It felt like a kick in the belly, but everybody was saying, 'Sharon, it's still going to happen.' I just want to be alive when it does," she said Friday. "The delay means there's another year for someone to get hit, but at least they're doing it."