Citizens weigh in on fixing Route 220

LINDEN – The Route 220 corridor – a six-mile roadway that stretches from just west of Route 287 in Piatt Township to the West Fourth Street interchange in Woodward Township – has a dangerous reputation among locals.

The state Department of Transportation has begin to study the corridor in an attempt to alleviate safety concerns. On Tuesday night, locals had the chance to share their worries about the road during a public meeting held by the department at the Woodward Township fire hall.

The high-speed corridor connects Interstates 80 and 180, and many drivers continue to travel highway speeds through the connection, according to Chris Neidig, PennDOT project manager.

Unlike a highway, the corridor also contains numerous access points, including side roads, on- and off-ramps and more than 250 driveways. Numerous businesses and residential areas line the sides of the roadway, and all of these access points can be confusing for drivers, Neidig explained.

“We call this roadway an interstate look-alike because it mimics the characteristics of an interstate in regards to traffic density and speeds, even though it has many more access points than an interstate,” Neidig said.

Over the past few years, traffic along the corridor has increased, and crashes have increased as well, according to data the department presented during the meeting.

Most locals agree it is time for PennDOT to address the safety issues; however, few people agreed on how the roadway should be fixed.

Cindy Knauber, who has lived near the road for more than 20 years, said the gas industry has brought more traffic into the area and it won’t matter what changes are made to the roadway if there is no one to enforce them.

“It won’t make any sense to, say, lower the speed limit. People go through here at 70 mph right now; why would changing the speed limit change anything?” Knauber said.

“A cop could sit by the intersection at Sheetz and meet their ticket quota in the first week of the month. People just go straight across there and completely ignore the traffic cones,” she added.

Rick Mason, PennDOT spokesman, agreed that lowering the speed limit only would cause further problems.

“Drivers are going to go as fast as they feel comfortable. If we lowered the speed limit, there would be a percentage of drivers who would abide by that. But the majority will continue driving at whatever speed they feel is safe. That would only increase the differentials between drivers’ speeds, which would cause more devastating crashes,” Mason said.

Traffic lights also are a poor choice in the corridor, according to the department. Engineer William Houpt explained that traffic lights along fast-speed roadways often cause more crashes.

“People think a red light will stop drivers, but drivers choose to stop their vehicles. In a high-speed area like this, a traffic light would defy driver expectations,” Houpt said.

“There is a misconception that traffic lights are a safety device, but they really limit access on the roadway. If you put a traffic light where drivers wouldn’t normally expect one, you’ll have more accidents – such as rear ends and angle crashes,” Mason said.

Possible solutions presented at the meeting included acceleration and deceleration lanes, jug handles and J-turns.

Larry Bender, of Linden, said added lanes would give the department “the most bang for their buck.”

“Wider acceleration lanes and the jug-handle tuns might solve a lot of the problems,” Bender said.

Ultimately, the most important safety step can be taken by drivers themselves.

“The best thing the public can do is be sure to buckle up and drive sober,” Mason said.

He noted that one out of four fatalities on roadways are caused by drunk drivers. Not wearing a seat belt results in 70 percent of traffic fatalities, he added.