Opinion differs on handling of Route 220

LINDEN – The Woodward Township Volunteer Fire Co. was buzzing with discussion Wednesday evening, when the state Department of Transportation held its second public meeting in 10 months on improving safety on Route 220.

“It’s very difficult to change driver behavior,” said PennDOT’s Chris Neidig, team manager for the study, “but what we can do is improve the safety of the road.”

More than a hundred people gathered at the fire company’s hall, circulating between six stations that explained a different facet of the access management study.

The study is of the corridor of Route 220 between Route 287 in Piatt Township to the Fourth Street interchange, which sees more than 22,000 vehicles per day and has numerous access points that local residents and PennDOT officials alike know lead to crashes.

“With the number of fatal and severe crashes on this stretch, it’s something that has been a high priority,” said Alan Kelly, District 3-0 traffic engineer.

An initial public meeting was held in June of 2013 and, in November, traffic data began to be collected and analyzed to pinpoint the most critical issues and what was causing them.

While the crash rate along the corridor is low, Kelly said, the number that are fatal or cause severe injury are high and are largely “right-angle” crashes, caused when drivers have to pull out onto the road across lanes of traffic traveling in the opposite direction.

Kelly said the corridor is a unique challenge among the nine counties that make up PennDOT’s District 3-0, not only because it is situated between two interstates but also because of the number of access points.

“We don’t have a lot of roads that look like this,” he said.

With that data and other information, PennDOT began to look at similar stretches of road and what had been done to improve safety, identifying and evaluating what would work best on 220.

The following components have become the basis of the proposed plan:

Prohibit left turns from side streets onto Route 220;

Prohibit crossing movements from sides;

Reduce the number of median openings;

Enhance the local road network;

Provide safe locations to turn around via jug-handles or U-turns; and

Remove and/or reduce redundant access points along the corridor.

These components were used to create conceptual designs of the project, proposing work such as closing the median just before Martins Road and the driveway from Maranatha Bible Church that opens directly onto the highway.

Reaction generally was positive to the fact that the corridor is being studied and that ideas are being proposed, but opinions differed on what the best ideas are for residents.

Roy and Lucia Pursel live near the top of Grandview Drive in Woodward Township and were concerned that some of the proposed changes significantly would increase traffic, when half a dozen nearby streets would have their direct access to 220 closed off and would have to travel past their house.

Roy Pursel also said that making Grandview Drive one of the only access points for the Glosserview neighborhood would be a dangerous idea.

“It’s hard to see sometimes, it just comes up on you out of nowhere, and they want to make that a major access point? I don’t think it’s safe,” he said.

Other residents wanted to see traffic lights installed on the corridor, like Gail Grove, whose son, Dalton, was killed pulling out onto 220 from the Sheetz parking lot in 2010.

Marilyn Kerchesky, of Mifflin Township, agreed.

“If they install lights, it would definitely slow people down,” she said. “It works for Route 15 in Lewisburg.”

The project will continue to move steadily forward, county Transportation Planner Mark Murawski said – another public meeting will be held in May and the final report on the study will be submitted in June.

Then, the schedule of work can be “phased in a logical way” and spread out costs under funds from the $2 billion transportation bill signed by Gov. Corbett in November, he said.