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North Atherton Chick-fil-A Moving Forward With Plans To Address Traffic Concerns

Chick-fil-A is moving forward with renovations and additions at its 1938 N. Atherton Street restaurant in Patton Township to address longstanding traffic backups and safety concerns stemming from drive-through lines.

Patton Township’s Board of Supervisors on Wednesday unanimously approved, pending completion of minor and technical conditions, a land development plan to add a second drive-through lane, expand kitchen capacity, and redesign the pickup area.

“Essentially all of this is meant to increase the efficiency of the site,” Tyler Prime, attorney for Chick-fil-A on the project, said. “As everyone is aware, this is a high-volume location and we’re looking to speed it up… modernize the site and just overall make it more efficient.”

A dual drive-through will wrap all the way around the building before narrowing to one lane at the exit. The restaurant currently can stack 15 cars in the drive-through, with overflow space for four to eight. The dual drive-through will be able to stack 45 cars before overflow, Justin Thornton of Colliers Engineering and Design, said.

A traffic study commissioned last year by Chick-fil-A found the drive-through queue needs to accommodate at least 24 cars at a time.

In addition to having two drive-through speaker boxes, a face-to-face ordering canopy will be added, allowing employees to take orders on iPads during high-volume times.

As the drive-through lanes wrap around the building, the pickup area will have an outside meal delivery canopy. The single pickup window will be replaced with a door that allows four to six employees to be delivering meals to vehicles.

A small expansion to the building will increase the kitchen capacity and add staging space near the pickup door.

Combined, Thornton said, the measures will enable staff to more quickly take orders, produce food and deliver it to customers.

No seating will be added to the restaurant and 11 parking stalls will be removed to accommodate the expanded drive-through.

“We do feel the benefit of the longer drive-through lane outweighs the loss of parking,” Thornton said. “Any time I visit that site right now, the stalls that we’re taking out I usually can’t even get into because the drive-thru lane is usually blocking them.”

Once construction begins, the restaurant will be closed for about 10 weeks, Chick-fil-A principal reinvestment lead Doug Wolfe said in December when the plan was first introduced to the supervisors.

The township’s Zoning Hearing Board in December granted Chick-fil-A variances of 7.6 feet from the 30-foot rear yard setback and 6.1 feet from the 15-foot side yard setback and from the requirements of planting the required trees and shrubs in the side and rear setbacks. As a condition, the restaurant is required to maintain a solid fence along the rear property line.

Board of Supervisors Chair Pamela Robb said she has experienced Chick-fil-A’s dual drive-through and expanded pickup system elsewhere, and it has worked well.

“I have been to a Chick-fil-A in Atlanta and it’s set up exactly like this, and the traffic moves quite quickly,” Robb said. “I’m looking forward to seeing this in operation.”

Traffic concerns have been an ongoing issue on the road outside the Atherton Street restaurant. Cars waiting to turn right into Chick-fil-A frequently back up onto North Atherton Street. Even though left turns into the property were made illegal more than a year ago, the township still sees cars lining up and attempting to make the turn across the road.

Patton Township Police Chief Tyler Jolley said in December officers were at the location 43 times and issued 58 warnings the previous month. The primary issue has been drivers attempting to make the left turn, he said.

The proposed plan does not specifically address the left-turn issue on North Atherton Street, which PennDOT owns and would need to perform any structural changes. Wolfe said there were some discussions about installing a hard median, but concerns arose about impacts on businesses across the street.

Left-turning traffic was included in the traffic study, Wolfe said, and the additional drive-through capacity may alleviate the issue.

“I think we’re all on the same page of what we want,” Supervisor Elliot Abrams said in December. “We want the restaurant to continue to be successful, if not more successful, and we also want everybody in the township to be safe… Hopefully, what you’re planning there will actually eliminate or reduce the need for calling that left turn illegal. If you have two lanes to pick up the people and they can go through then it doesn’t matter that they’re coming in from the left. Let them.

“The only reason for restricting it is that you can get stuck there and if the traffic’s out on the first lane of the road to turn in from the correct way they can’t get through, and it’s just asking for an accident. This way you’ll be serving everybody faster, they’ll get their wonderful food faster and there will be less of a congestion there. So, I just hope the plan does exactly that.”

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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