By Anya TikkaDINGMAN TOWNSHIP — Some commercial vehicles will be able to travel a portion of U.S. Route 209 through federal parklands, if Congress acts.
The vehicle owners would need to get a permit first, and their businesses must be located in one of eight towns neighboring the highway south of Milford. The annual permitting fee is "not to exceed $200," according to the new agreement sent to Congress.
The old, existing agreement with the federal government, due to end Sept. 30, is expected to get an extension, the Pike County commissioners recently told supervisors in Dingman Township.
The updated agreement applies only to commercial vehicles owned and registered by businesses located in the following "adjacent municipalities" located in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area:
Delaware Township Dingman Township
Lehman Township Matamoras Borough
Middle Smithfield Township Milford Borough
Milford Township Smithfield Township
Westfall TownshipPermitted commercial vehicles will be able to use the road from mile zero on Federal Route 209 to Pennsylvania State Route 2001, also known as Bushkill Falls Road. Commercial traffic would be prohibited elsewhere in the recreation area.
Dingman Supervisor Dennis Brink urged businesses that want access to Route 209 to act quickly.
The National Park Service would issue permits to local businesses that use vehicles of a certain size. But there’s been little discussion of weight limits.
Commercial traffic is prohibited to prevent wear and tear on the road from tractor-trailers, and to prevent its use as a shortcut to I-84 and Milford.
A tractor has two axles and a trailer has four or five axles, Brink noted. But it's very difficult to gauge vehicle weight, he said.
Supervisors' Chair Tom Mincer said the supermarket coming to Dingman will not be allowed to use Route 209 as a through route.
Two short exemptionsExempt from the legislation are two short stretches at either end of Route 209: One, on the northern end, just south of Milford, permits all vehicles access to Milford Bridge so they may cross to Route 206 in New Jersey. The other, at the southern end, extends about a mile up to PA State Route 2001, also known as Bushkill Falls Road. Commercial vehicles may use both sections without a permit.
Regulating local trafficThe prohibition against commercial traffic doesn't affect emergency vehicles or school buses, or any town or utility vehicle serving residents.
Brink said township vehicles are not specifically mentioned in the Congressional bill.
“We want to make sure the vehicles that service the municipalities are not affected as far as this bill is concerned,” he said.
Mincer said there’s no problem issuing permits for all government vehicles. He said park rangers will enforce the prohibition by stopping vehicles without stickers.
Now the bill has to go through Congress.
"The old one ran out this year on February 30," said Mincer. "Generally, it’s not a problem, so hopefully we’ll have it around September. The NPS has always tried to deal with that road.”
Supervisors said all commercial traffic will be eliminated in September if the bill doesn't pass.
“This is in order to regulate local traffic,” Mincer concluded.