BEAR CREEK TWP. — Opinions on the situation on state Route 115 were all over the board when representatives from the state fielded questions and comments at the township supervisor’s meeting on Monday.
The two traffic engineers from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation were at the meeting at the request of residents who feel that changes made in response to safety concerns after the highway was the scene of multiple fatal accidents in a short time several years ago went too far.
In particular, residents have complained that the elimination of the passing lane along most of the highway has resulted in traffic tie ups and illegal passing when large trucks and other slow-moving vehicles are travelling below the 45 mph speed limit.
The PennDOT representatives said that while the accidents involving a vehicle hitting a fixed object like a pole haven’t decreased since the changes were completed in July 2010, the number of crashes involving two or more vehicles have decreased, something they attributed to the addition of left-turn lanes and the increased distance between opposing traffic.
Resident Rosemary Mulligan agreed, and said that even when she’s stuck behind a slow-moving truck, her main thought is, “At least I’m safe.”
Supervisor Jim Smith, who lives along the state highway, said he approves of the changes and feels they make the road much safer. But while others agreed the changes improved the safety concerns they were intended to address, some said they were “overkill” while others sought a middle ground between the way things were and the way they are now.
“I think you created some unintended consequences with the changes,” said Supervisor Jeff Popple, referring to the stopped traffic and illegal passing resulting from the slow-moving traffic. He called the changes “regressive” in light of the increased traffic volume because of the casino and commerce.
Popple and others called for PennDOT to rethink the highway situation and consider other options.
The PennDOT representatives asked the supervisors to make a written request for review of the Route 115 situation.