FAIRVIEW TWP. —State Route 309 to Mountain Top will be reduced to two lanes — one lane each way — in the middle of April and will remain that way until November.
At a meeting Thursday of PennDOT, local municipal and state elected officials and concerned residents, details of the $7 million project were reviewed. The project will remove a large part of the rock mountain to make traveling safer.
Falling rocks have been a problem in this area of Route 309 for years and the project will literally move the mountain back about 20 feet and create a “fall area” where the rocks will land away from the roadway.
“While this project is going on, we urge all motorists to drive at the reduced speed — 35 miles per hour,” said Fairview Township Supervisor Robert Orloski. “And we advise trucks to obey the weight restrictions. We will have local and state police patrolling, plus cameras will be installed and we will enforce the rules.”
Dan Fox, PennDOT supervisor of traffic control specialists, said trucks with a weight limit of 10.5 tons will be allowed to travel down the mountain only between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. No trucks will be allowed up the mountain during the project.
Fox said signage and message boards will be placed on interstates 81 and 80 to warn truckers of the ban.
Tom Yoniski, of state Sen. Lisa Baker’s office, said the project already has started. Latona Construction Co., of Pittston, is the general contractor, and Brad Hontz, engineer, said preparatory work was being done, including repaving the southbound lanes that will receive heavy traffic over the course of the project.
Orloski stressed the importance of keeping the two lanes open at all times.
“With just two lanes open — one north and one south — we have to keep traffic flowing,” Orloski said. “Every problem we’ve had on the mountain has been the result of people driving too fast or not paying attention. If an accident occurs, Route 309 will be shut down and that would be a serious problem if an emergency vehicle has to get through.”
Orloski said concerns have been raised about the possibility of tractor-trailers staging along Route 309 before 11 p.m. to wait until they can travel the roadway.
He said law enforcement will patrol and disperse trucks that attempt to stage before to 11 p.m. Orloski said the roadway will be very narrow, and if trucks line up on the side it would create a hazardous condition.
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, said the project is necessary to keep motorists safe.
“This is progress,” he said. “We’re dealing with a potentially dangerous situation. This project will make Route 309 much safer.”
Ed Goy, PennDOT project manager, said about 20 feet of the mountain will be removed, beginning at state Route 2034, commonly called Baby Road.
Jeff Novitiski of PennDOT said that when the project is completed, Route 309 will be paved. He said PennDOT District Executive George Roberts has committed to paving the highly traveled road in 2015.
Baker said the project is critical for the 40,000-plus people who live in the Mountain Top area and for the 4,000 or so people who work in the Crestwood Industrial Park.
“We’ve met with all the stakeholders,” she said. “We stressed the importance of dialogue and the meeting shave provided a forum to address any issues that may come up while the project progresses.”
Baker noted 309 serves as the major access point for all the families and workers that travel to and from Mountain Top. She said all appropriate agencies, from local municipalities, state police, Luzerne County 911 and all emergency units have participated in the meetings.