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PennDOT studying dangerous Route 201 intersection

| Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, 12:07 a.m.
Car runs red light on the corner of 201 and Fayette St. in Washington Twp..
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Car runs red light on the corner of 201 and Fayette St. in Washington Twp.. Jim Ference | The Valley Independent

The busy intersection of Route 201 at Fayette and Vernon avenues has been the site of numerous accidents over the years.

But it hit home for Jamie Miller last month when she was involved in an accident at the Washington Township roadway.

Fortunately, the township supervisor said she was not seriously injured. And she's asking the state Department of Transportation to come up with suggestions for making it a safer throughway.

On Nov. 28, Miller sent a letter to PennDOT's District 12 office in Uniontown, seeking a traffic study of the busy three-way intersection. That study is currently under way and is expected to be complete early in the new year.

At that intersection, there were five reportable accidents over last the five years, including one fatality, said Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for PennDOT District 12.

Ofsanik said speeding and alcohol contributed to the fatality. In the other accidents, contributing factors included careless turning, a distracted driver and running a red light. Three people sustained three moderate injuries and three others suffered minor injuries, Ofsanik said.

Reportable accidents are crashes in which someone is injured or a vehicle or vehicles are towed from the scene. Fender-bender accidents are not classified as reportable and would not be included among statistics maintained by PennDOT.

PennDOT District 12 Traffic Engineer Rob Dean said a study of the intersection is under way. Typically, traffic study requests are made by municipal officials, he said.

Normally, PennDOT responds with its findings within 30 days of a traffic study request. Because of the holidays, that could occur shortly after the start of the new year, Dean said.

“If any municipality asks us to do survey and have a concern, we will do it,” Dean said.

The traffic study will review the section of Route 201 within 1 mile of the intersection, addressing bus stops along that road as well.

The study will include a review of crash data and checking signage to make sure everything is operating normally.

“We're going to review the signal itself, too,” Dean said.

Dean said it's too early to discuss possible remedies until the study is complete.

“I have not done a comparison with other intersections, but the number of accidents does not seem a high number as compared other intersections,” Dean said.

“We're always concerned whenever there are crashes and fatalities,” Ofsanik added.

Miller, of 1114 Second St., in Washington Township, was traveling north on Route 201 at 2:24 p.m. Nov. 6, when her vehicle collided with a car driven by Timothy Sedlak, of 231 Vernon Ave., who was driving on Vernon Avenue, crossing Route 201.

Washington Township police reported that Miller sustained minor injuries and was treated at Monongahela Valley Hospital.

“The thing that brought it to my attention was the phone calls from parents about the bus stops along there,” Miller said.

Miller said numerous motorists crossing from Fayette to Vernon avenues or vice versa try to beat the bus as it navigates along Route 201.

Miller said with cooperation from Belle Vernon Area school officials, they were able to coordinate stops so the bus stops are on the same side of Route 201 as the bus door. That ensures that children — especially elementary-aged students — do not have to cross Route 201 to enter or exit a bus.

Miller declined to suggest how to make the intersection safer, noting, “That's why the study needs to be done, because they are the professionals. We'll do what PennDOT advises us to do. We work well with PennDOT.”

Miller said she drives through the intersection in question every day, sometimes five times a day. The accident last month was her first ever.

“Mine was just an accident that happened that day and luckily no one was seriously injured,” Miller said. “It just reminded me how dangerous that intersection is.

“I'm just trying to do the right thing for the people of Washington Township and everyone who drives through that area.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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