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Upper Burrell couple pleads in vain for PennDOT to erect guardrail to protect home

| Thursday, June 19, 2014, 12:41 a.m.
Dan Speicher | For the Valley News Dispatch
Mary Lou and Gil Schrock on Saturday, June 14, 2014, stand in front of their shed, which was hit by a truck on June 12. Vehicles have ended up in the couple's yard at the corner of Seventh Street Road (Route 780) and Lower Drennen Road in Upper Burrell 16 times in the past 25 years.
Dan Speicher | For the Valley News Dispatch
Mary Lou and Gil Schrock on Saturday, June 14, 2014, sit on the boulders they installed in front of their Upper Burrell property in an effort to prevent vehicles from driving into their house. Vehicles have ended up in the couple's yard at the corner of Seventh Street Road (Route 780) and Lower Drennen Road 16 times in the past 25 years. Two years after a vehicle wrecked into their porch (left entrance to the house), causing $35,000 in damage, a truck crashed into their shed on June 12, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For the Valley News Dispatch
Mary Lou and Gil Schrock of Upper Burrell stand on their property at the corner of Lower Drennen and Seventh Street roads on Saturday, June 14, 2014. PennDOT has refused to put in a guard rail along Route 780 in front of their home even though 16 vehicles have ended up in their yard over the past 25 years. A truck two years ago caused $35,000 in damage to their porch; a truck on June 12, 2014, hit their shed.
Dan Speicher | For the Valley News Dispatch
Mary Lou and Gil Schrock of Upper Burrell on Saturday, June 14, 2014, sit in their newly finished room that was repaired after a truck crashed into their porch in 2012, causing $35,000 in damage. Another truck crashed into their shed on June 12, 2014. The Schrocks have unsuccessfully petitioned PennDOT to install a guard rail to protect their property at the corner of Seventh Street and Lower Drennen roads.

PennDOT says it would be a liability for it to install a guardrail on Seventh Street Road across from Manchester Hill Road in Upper Burrell.

The area doesn't meet the agency's “comprehensive design criteria,” a spokeswoman said.

“If an accident were to occur and someone was injured or killed (due to the guardrail), the state could be sued,” said spokeswoman Valerie Petersen. “We can't just place guiderail anywhere.”

PennDOT maintains its stance after another vehicle crash last week at the intersection — the 16th in the last 25 years, according to Gil and Mary Lou Schrock, that a vehicle has ended up in their yard.

This time, a pickup took out the corner of their shed. The last time, in 2012, a car careened into their sunroom, missing the room their son was in by mere inches.

“They need to do something,” said Mary Lou Schrock as she stood looking at the damage Friday afternoon.

The Schrocks said they have repeatedly asked PennDOT to install a guardrail and plan to do so again.

But the response likely will be similar to those in the past, based on information provided by Petersen.

“Since a guiderail, itself, is an obstruction which can cause considerable damage to a vehicle and a motorist, it is installed only when comprehensive design criteria are met,” Petersen said, using PennDOT's term for a guardrail.

PennDOT conducted a traffic study in the area and had an engineer review the guardrail request, she said.

“The traffic engineer determined that due to vertical height and slope, it doesn't meet the criteria and it cannot be installed,” Petersen said.

The agency put in a double-ended directional arrow at the edge of the Schrocks' yard along Route 780 facing Manchester Hill Road.

Township Supervisor Ross Walker III said the supervisors likely would write to PennDOT on the Schrocks' behalf.

The township can't install a barrier because Seventh Street Road (Route 780) is a state road. It did put up a warning sign on Manchester Hill Road about 300 feet from the intersection at the top of the hill.

The township has been unsuccessful in its previous requests for a guardrail, Walker said.

“It seems like a guiderail would probably help,” he said. “I don't think it would have to be a big piece. It would be a shame if it takes a death for PennDOT to take action.”

Last Thursday's crash

At least two people were injured on Thursday when a person driving a pickup came off of Manchester Hill Road and collided with a car traveling on Route 780, Upper Burrell police said.

The truck traveled the 120 feet through the Schrocks' yard and into their shed, police said.

The occupants of the car suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Police did not return multiple calls seeking an update on the accident and whether charges would be filed.

Drivers on Manchester Hill come up a hill to a stop sign where the road levels out slightly at its intersection with Route 780.

Accidents have mainly been the result of speeding and drunken driving, according to a PennDOT review of crash data.

After the 2012 accident, Gil Schrock installed 11 3,000-pound boulders along the front yard near the road. They are illuminated with Christmas lights year round to make them visible to drivers.

In the recent accident, the truck entered the yard just to the right of the rock barrier.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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