PennDOT roundabout plan could doom Fisher Heights Giant Eagle
By Chris Buckley
Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 1:51 a.m.
The state is eyeing two alternatives for upgrading the intersection at routes 88 and 837 in Carroll Township.
But Archie Allridge, vice president of Mon Valley Foods, said he knows what impact a roundabout intersection would have on the Fisher Heights section.
“It will put us out of business,” Allridge said of the Fisher Heights Giant Eagle supermarket.
“That's 110 jobs. I told PennDOT that.
“(The roundabout) will take 40 to 50 parking spots from my lot and all prime spots right in the front of the store.
“We may not need them on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but we need them on Thursdays, weekends and holidays.”
PennDOT District 12 spokeswoman Valerie Petersen said the state is considering “improvements to the intersection to better facilitate traffic flow.”
The project would extend from Watson Drive to Isabelle Street on Route 88 and approximately 200 feet on Route 837.
That proposed project would include changes to Watson Drive and Alexander Street to improve sight distance for motorists, Petersen said.
The project is expected to be let for bid in spring 2015.
An open house and plans display took place June 26 at Ringgold High School to inform the public of proposed the “Route 88 and Route 837 Intersection Improvement Project.”
Petersen said information was sent to property owners that will potentially be affected by the project. The meeting was not advertised, Petersen said.
Still in the preliminary engineering state, PennDOT is considering two options: building a roundabout – or circular interchange – or installing left-turn lanes on 88 and 837.
“At the public meeting last week, there was some resistance to the roundabout, so we're going to take a closer look at both options and make a decision within the next couple weeks,” Project Manager Brian Svesnik said.
The roundabout would eliminate traffic signals at the intersection. Motorists would enter the circle in order to make a turn. Incoming vehicles would have to yield to traffic in the roundabout. Motorists would travel in the roundabout until arriving at their respective turns.
PennDOT and Carroll Township officials disagree about safety concerns at the intersection.
Township police Chief Paul Brand said there generally are one to three reportable accidents a year at the intersection and another three “fender-bender” accidents.
“We were all surprised by the few number of accidents there,” said Brand, noting township officials reviewed accident reports after learning of the proposed PennDOT project.
Brand said accidents generally occur when motorists try to beat the traffic light.
Svesnik said state traffic data indicates more accidents at the intersection, but did not elaborate.
He said accidents might persist in the roundabout, adding, “It will slow people down to 15 mph, so if there is an accident, it will not be as severe.”
Svesnik said the change is being considered because traffic backs up at the intersection occasionally, especially during shift changes at Monongahela Valley Hospital.
“The hospital would be in favor of anything that would improve the flow of traffic in that area,” said Patrick Albert, the facility's COO.
Albert said traffic at the intersection tends to bottleneck at times during shift changes. He said hospital officials were not asked to participate in the open house.
In order to build the roundabout, the state would have to take by eminent domain several properties, including a vacant garage and a house next door to it, across the road from Giant Eagle, as well as a portion of the store's parking lot.
Gilbert Leadbitter's chiropractic office on Route 837 would be relocated, Svesnik said.
“One of the things we're looking at now is a shift away from the parking lot so there is less of an impact,” Svesnik said.
He said as currently designed, the roundabout would have motorists pass about 200 feet in front of the store.
At a meeting this week, the Carroll Township supervisors opposed a roundabout.
Allridge said he has sought help from state Rep. Peter J. Daley, D-California, and state Sen. Timothy Solobay, D-Canonsburg.
He said Giant Eagle corporate officials have asked PennDOT to choose turning lanes at the intersection. The Fisher Heights Giant Eagle is owned by Mon Valley Foods, which also operates stores in Finleyville and Uniontown.
The Fisher Heights store has served the community since 1961, Allridge said.
“What grocery store do they go to if I leave?” Allridge said.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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