Changes at ‘gateway’ intersection of routes in Hughesville studied

HUGHESVILLE – The oft-snarled intersection of routes 220 and 405 is receiving attention from the state Department of Transportation.

Results from a two-week traffic study of the junction, performed in May by consultancy Gannett Fleming, were presented to about 15 “stakeholders” from the county, PennDOT, and local municipalities during a Thursday meeting at the Hughesville Area Public Library.

County transportation planner Mark Murawski called the crossroads “the gateway to the Marcellus Shale and the eastern end of the county – you can’t really avoid it.”

Right now, traffic coming in from the west on Route 220 must stop at a sign, while traffic traveling north and south has the right of way. Race Street runs into 220 about 150 feet north of the intersection, and traffic there must turn right.

Given the odd angle of the intersection and the volume of traffic, which includes lots of large trucks carrying heavy equipment making wide turns, the consultants found that few accidents have happened recently: Only seven incidents occurred there since 2008, with only one accident in five years causing more than minor injuries.

“We were kind of surprised the number was that low,” Mark Metil, of Gannett Fleming, said. “I think, because of the congestion and the skew of the intersection, people are probably very conservative – I think there’s a heightened awareness that this is a difficult spot.”

During their two-week preliminary study, the consultants found a daily average of 8,600 vehicles using 220 west of the interchange, and about 9,500 going north and south. During peak morning and afternoon hours, slightly more than 1,000 autos passed through there, with trucks making up five to seven percent of that number.

The study also included several side streets, to account for people taking alternative routes to avoid the 220/405 junction.

The consultants stressed that all types of improvements are on the table.

“We will look at a roundabout, we’ll look at a traffic signal, we’ll look at realigning the intersection, to get Race Street lined up with the 220 leg (from the west),” Gannett Fleming project manager David Hamlet said. “I’m sure everyone’s aware, some of these solutions are going to require municipal funds, for the municipalities to pay for energy, for maintenance.”

Several people asked the consultants if they had considered that improving the 220/405 intersection could add to congestion at the meeting of routes 405 and 118, or Main and Water streets, in Hughesville.

Hamlet said that any proposal will account for both the effects the current intersection has in “metering” traffic onto Main Street and for the possibility a traffic signal there might cause more people to cut around it on side streets.

Hughesville Council President Jeff Berger brought up the possibilities of both adding a left-turn lane at routes 405 and 118 and looking at some sort of bypass around the borough.

“When the (405/118) intersection was widened, at the time the borough didn’t want to give up space for (street) parking,” Laura Lipinski, PennDOT assistant traffic engineer, said. “We’re looking at the number of spots it would take to put in a lane there.”

“It’s not in our scope to be looking at major highway relocations, or different routes,” Hamlet said.

The consultants plan on having a public meeting to discuss the 220/405 intersection in August, and will collect more data and have more meetings before issuing their final report in the spring of 2014.