North Huntingdon officials yield to outcry over stop signs
A decision by North Huntingdon commissioners on whether to proceed with removing a pair of stop signs at an intersection in Lincoln Hills has become all but moot.
Instead of voting on whether to remove two of the three stop signs at the three-way intersection of Oxford Court and Westminster Drive, township officials have been asked to develop a policy to deal with future requests for stop signs, said commission Chairman Rich Gray.
After dozens of residents turned out for the July 16 commissioners meeting to protest plan to remove the signs, commissioners delayed voting on the measure.
At the time, Gray said it would not be proper to vote when three of the board's seven members were absent.
But there are no plans to take up the matter up in the future.
“I've asked the manager to remove it from the agenda,” said Gray, who informed residents by email of the decision. “While it's not the only reason, the public outcry certainly had something to do with our decision.”
In his email to residents, Gray noted that one of the people who complained during the last meeting asked if the commissioners “could just be inactive on the matter? The answer is yes.”
“This facilitates a ‘no action' position being taken by the board,” Gray wrote. “Having determined that the original request to have the stop signs removed was in actuality a backhanded attempt at having additional questionable stop signs installed makes this decision appropriate.”
After being alerted to the improperly installed signs, traffic consultant Michael Andrewsh of Wooster and Associates was hired by the township to review the intersection and recommended that the signs be removed. A traffic study conducted in early July by North Huntingdon police officer James Novak came to the same conclusion.
But many of the residents who argued against removing the signs said even though the data does not support the need, their presence makes the neighborhood safer because it slows the pace of traffic.
Leaving the signs in place is not without risk. Any citations issued by police to motorists who run the stop sign could be dismissed by a judge, according to police officials.
Gray also noted that leaving an improper stop sign at an intersection could open the township up to liability if an accident occurs.
“That hasn't changed,” he said. “But our feeling is that we could still be held liable whether we take the signs down or leave them there. So unless something else brings this issue to the forefront, the signs will remain.”
Township Manager John Shepherd also has raised concerns that having stop signs that fail to meet state guidelines can result in the loss of road-paving money collected from taxes on fuel.
In the early 1980s, the municipality removed about a dozen improper stop signs when it came close to losing state funding.
Gray has asked the administration to place a moratorium on any request for stop signs until a policy is developed to govern the process.
“How the stop signs came to be may never be fully explained,” he said. “However, we must ensure that the situation does not repeat itself.”
Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2360, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.