Steps taken in Southwest Greensburg to protect visually impaired pedestrians

| Thursday, July 25, 2013, 8:34 p.m.

Visually impaired people crossing busy South Main Street in Southwest Greensburg should be helped by new safety measures taken on the road, according to the Westmoreland Blind Association's president.

A year ago, Larry Helkowski appealed to federal, state and local officials to do something about speeding on the section of Main Street in front of his agency. He called the stretch a dangerous “freeway” that put his clients at risk daily.

Since then, PennDOT has increased the time for clients to walk in the pedestrian crosswalk at the intersection of Main and Green streets.

Orange signs marking a crossing ahead for visually impaired pedestrians have been installed. And borough police have cracked down on motorists who exceed the 30 mph speed limit as part of an aggressive driving campaign sponsored by federal and state officials.

“The state has been very good about the whole thing,” he added. “They want it to be safe, too. They know it's a dangerous road. And the police department is giving out tickets. They realize it's a problem.”

PennDOT further is reviewing a request from the Blind Association to install flashing lights, said agency spokesman Jay Ofsanik.

The safety measures will help, Ofsanik said, but motorists obeying the rules of the road will help more.

“I think everything you do improves safety, but ultimately, it's still up to motorists to abide by the speed limit. People need to slow down,” Ofsanik said.

Motorists further need to stop trying to beat traffic signals as the lights prepare to turn red at intersections, he said.

“Pedestrians are very, very vulnerable, and drivers need to be aware of that,” Ofsanik said.

The increased traffic enforcement has reminded motorists to slow down, said police Lt. Kris Chappell.

When the crackdown began last month, police cited numerous local drivers. That has changed.

“Usually, it's people from out of town,” Chappell said of motorists who now are stopped and ticketed. Helkowski said he appreciates the efforts.

“Everybody's trying to make this work,” he said. “I can't ask anymore than that.”

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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