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Traffic signal issues dog Dormont

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Afternoon rush hour traffic on West Liberty Avenue in Dormont on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014.

Dormont is dealing with annoying breakdowns of traffic signals that a contractor installed less than three years ago along West Liberty Avenue in Dormont, as part of a project to upgrade the lights all the way to Route 19 in Peters.

Borough Manager Jeff Naftal said almost every component of the signals installed in late 2011 has been breaking at some point — lights have burned out, pre-emptors aren't changing signals for approaching emergency vehicles, and pedestrian signals and audible announcements for the vision-impaired aren't working as they should. Six intersections are affected, he said.

“My question is, when they put in the new systems two-and-a-half, three years ago, should we be having this many problems already?” Naftal said.

The contractor responsible for maintaining the traffic signals in the borough, Crafton-based Traffic Systems and Services, notified Naftal about two months ago that breakdowns were cropping up more often than they should. Through the end of June, maintaining the system has cost the borough about $14,000, compared to $12,000 in all of 2013, $11,000 in 2012 and about $7,900 in 2011, when the system was new, Naftal said.

PennDOT officials told Naftal the signals are the borough's responsibility.

“We did not replace the signals in Dormont. We just re­­­timed and coordinated them,” said PennDOT District 11 spokesman Steve Cowan. About 22,000 vehicles travel West Liberty through Dormont every day.

PennDOT and the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission helped back the $553,000 project to update and coordinate the timing on all the lights from Pittsburgh to Peters in order to reduce traffic.

The signals in Dormont were replaced as part of a separate $7.3 million, 18-month project to remove buried trolley tracks, repave and re-stripe West Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh and Dormont Connecticut-based Lane Construction Co. was the primary contractor. Lane representatives could not be reached for comment.

Naftal said the malfunctions haven't caused any traffic backups or accidents yet, but the signal problems are confusing drivers and making the intersections less safe. He is trying to determine which contractors and subcontractors are responsible for the signal installation.

So far, Dormont appears to be the only community affected.

City of Pittsburgh spokesman Tim McNulty said the city's traffic engineer hadn't reported any more repairs than usual for its share of West Liberty and Banksville Road.

“We only have the one signal at Highland (Avenue and Washington Road), and we haven't had anything haywire,” said Jerry Duke, Bethel Park's planner.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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