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Murrysville officials to vote April 17 on road closure

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 12:51 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murr
Brandthoover Cutoff from Old William Penn Highway, Murrysville, on Monday, April 1. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murrysville Star

The fate of the Branthoover Cut-Off could be decided later this month.

Murrysville Council is slated to vote on whether or not to close the road, which connects Old William Penn Highway and Route 22, at its April 17 meeting. The road was the site of a 2009 traffic accident that resulted in a lawsuit against the municipality.

Chief Administrator Jim Morrison said closing the road, which also enables eastbound Route 22 drivers to make a U-turn, was being discussed because of a “change in accident history.” Council considered closing the road in 2005 at the recommendation of municipal officials, but rejected the idea at the time because there was no significant accident history.

A discussion on closing the road was scheduled for last week's council meeting, but officials did not discuss the issue publicly. Instead, council met for about 30 minutes in an executive session with Solicitor George Kotjarapoglus for an update on the suit.

Paul and Joanne Kimelman of Churchill filed a lawsuit against the municipality in April 2012 after their Suzuki Reno was struck while they tried to turn from Branthoover Cut-Off onto Old William Penn Highway. The lawsuit alleges that the accident, which occurred in July 2009, was caused by negligence on the part of the municipality. It calls the intersection “unorthodox” and “highly confusing.”

Elliott Schuchardt, the Pittsburgh-based attorney who is representing the couple, said he would support whatever remedy municipal officials would devise. His clients have sued the municipality for negligence and allege there is an obstructed view at the intersection with Old William Penn Highway.

“One of our objectives is to get the road modified, obviously,” Schuchardt said. “Our big point is to make the road safer and to try to save lives.”

Branthoover Cut-Off was created by the state to connect Old William Penn Highway with Route 22 when the state built the new highway, Kotjarapoglus said.

If officials opt to close the road, they also would need to decide whether to formally close the road with barricades or to abandon the road. Abandoning the road would requires council to adopt an ordinance and host a public hearing. Morrison estimated that closing the road would cost about $4,000 and would require milling the asphalt, removing the guardrails and erecting new signs.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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