PennDOT blames Route 22 light problems on contractor
By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013, 11:42 a.m.
A Pittsburgh-based contractor is being blamed for defects that cause traffic backups along Route 22 in Murrysville.
The state Department of Transportation has notified Mascaro Contracting that it must repair electrical issues that are causing traffic signals at nine intersections along Route 22 to malfunction.
Representatives for Mascaro did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
According to a letter from PennDOT sent to Mascaro earlier this month, the contractor is responsible to repair the problem at its earliest convenience.
“The grounding was not completed in accordance with (PennDOT's) standard,” PennDOT District 12 assistant engineer William Kovach wrote. “Therefore, corrective action is required.”
In the letter, Kovach said any defects must be repaired at no additional cost to PennDOT.
The lights, which control traffic along Route 22 from Trafford Road to Triangle Lane, were part of a Route 22 widening project from about 2002 to 2008.
Electrical problems are throwing the lights out of sync, according to a study commissioned by the municipality conducted by Trans Associates last year.
Route 22 is a state-owned and maintained road. PennDOT commissioned the widening project, which included installing the electrical work to control traffic lights. Mascaro was the primary contractor for the project.
However, Murrysville is responsible for maintaining the traffic lights and cameras.
The lights are cued by traffic cameras that detect if there is traffic along intersecting streets but rely on timers programmed based on traffic volume.
The lights are supposed to rotate between various points at an intersection – including cross-streets and turning lanes – on a timer, based on the time of day. Cameras perched atop the intersections detect traffic along the cross-streets.
If there are no vehicles approaching the intersection, the light switches to the next point and adds the remaining time to that light cycle.
Similar problems nearly made Councilman Jeff Kepler late for last week's council meeting – a regular occurrence, Kepler said.
He initially brought the situation to council about a year ago after receiving several complaints from residents who regularly were stuck for extended time periods at intersections.
Murrysville commissioned a $9,800 study last summer that found that one of the timers are off by as much as 27 minutes.
That means one light could behave as if it were 9:30 a.m. and rush hour, while another would behave as if rush hour were over.
Murrysville officials plan to overhaul the lights this year.
They have budgeted about $115,000 for a timing study, the possible purchase of new cameras and other costs associated with upgrading the system.
The money originally was designated for emergency management radio upgrades that now are being funded by a grant.
PennDOT District 12 spokeswoman Valerie Petersen said she could not comment on the specifics of the situation because the department might pursue legal action if repairs are not made.
However, these types of defects in projects are rare, she said.
“We have the capability of watching any product to make sure it's working properly,” Petersen said. “We always use whatever recourse we can to get things fixed.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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