Traffic pattern changed at Rostraver intersection
The state knows what it will take to ultimately make the dangerous intersection of Vernon Drive and state Route 51 safer.
But for now, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation cannot afford that roundly sought solution – a new traffic light.
Rostraver Township Commissioner Pat Egros said PennDOT officials recently told him there is no money in the current 12-year plan to install a traffic signal at the intersection. Although the state gave no cost estimate for a signal, Egros estimated the price at roughly $300,000.
In May – calling for improvements to the intersection – resident Janet Erdely brought the commissioners a 17-page petition containing more than 300 signatures.
At the time, Erdely said drivers routinely make U-turns at the intersection and claimed speeding is a frequent problem. She said it is difficult to turn off Vernon Drive to head south on Route 51.
The township turned the petition over to PennDOT and requested a traffic study to identify a solution.
In a letter to the township this week, PennDOT officials indicated their study reviewed accident history at the intersection from 2009 through 2013. All of the accidents involved vehicles attempting left turns out of Vernon Drive and colliding with northbound vehicles on Route 51.
PennDOT determined that drivers are not waiting for appropriate gaps in traffic to make turns.
As a result of the study, PennDOT will, within 30 days, install a “no left turn” sign on Vernon Drive at the entrance to Route 51.
In addition, Egros said, the state will “make a physical change,” such as building an island, to force traffic to turn right from Vernon Drive.
The township provided PennDOT with statistics indicating there have been 25 reportable accidents, including one fatality, at the intersection.
Under the PennDOT recommendation, motorists will be forced to turn right from Vernon Drive onto Route 51, turn onto Route 201, and re-enter Route 51 at the ramp near Sweeney's Steakhouse. The new traffic pattern will be 1.75 miles long, Egros said.
“I'm a little disappointed that the money is not available for a traffic signal,” Egros said.
Egros said the township has contacted the Westmoreland County commissioners and state Rep. R. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, to seek support for a traffic signal.
“We still have a lot of people helping us trying to get that light in,” Egros said. “We're still going to proceed forward.”
Harhai said the “no left turn” decision is “the first step to save lives.”
“At least we have a temporary fix,” Harhai said. “There has always been need for a light. I have always wanted a light, but the funding has not been there.”
Harhai acknowledged that the intersection is dangerous.
“The ideal situation would be to put a traffic light there. That's what I'm going to fight for going forward,” he said.
Harhai said the township might not have to wait until the 12-year plan is renewed in 2016.
“It may come sooner than later,” Harhai said. “That's an issue to fight for, and I'll be in the front line fighting for it.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.