Changes to Penn Township's Snyder Road considered
In the aftermath of a crash that led to a nearly $500,000 legal settlement, Penn Township officials are accepting a state recommendation that a portion of Snyder Road be designated as a one-way street to prohibit motorists from turning left onto busy Pleasant Valley Road.
It's a first step for what township officials say could help to make a safer intersection there, less than 400 feet north of Pleasant Valley's junction with Harvison Road.
Township commissioners voted unanimously last week to notify the state Department of Transportation that they agree with the recommendation for the state-owned road, which also is known as State Route 4047. The township owns Pleasant Valley Road.
The recommendation follows the November settlement of a lawsuit that Caroline Castelluccio Humbert of Coraopolis filed against Penn Township, PennDOT and two other defendants because of a July 2007 crash.
Humbert, who was a passenger on a motorcycle, suffered serious injuries to her spine and head when the bike struck a car that was turning from Snyder onto Pleasant Valley.
Humbert received a $480,000 settlement, with Inservco Insurance Services covering Penn Township's $240,000 payment and the state covering PennDOT's $125,000 liability. Penn Township paid only the $10,000 deductible to its insurer.
Humbert's attorney, Michael Rosenzweig, said he is “thrilled” that government officials are taking action to eliminate the possibility of left turns at that intersection.
“(A lawsuit) is the best way to affect change when the roadway owner will not do it,” said Rosenzweig, the litigation manager for Edgar Snyder & Associates. “So, we're very proud of this changing, and it's terrible that someone had to be badly hurt for this to happen.”
For several years, Penn Township has had two signs on Pleasant Valley stating that left turns onto Snyder were prohibited because of the contours of the road.
But Rosenzweig said the “same geometry” explained why it was a dangerous turn left from Snyder onto Pleasant Valley. The law firm hired an engineer who said the required sight distance for the conditions at that intersection was 390 feet, which is 165 feet more than township officials said they measured, according to court records.
Humbert's attorneys referred to a deposition of township Manager Bruce Light in which he said the sight distance at the intersection was “poor at best.”
The police officer who investigated the crash also said it was “long known that the sight distance is impeded at the intersection,” court records show.
Traffic counts by the state and county estimate that about 400 people drive on Snyder Road daily.
“Heck, that's 400 people you're playing Russian roulette with,” Rosenzweig said.
Township officials are recommending that PennDOT make Snyder Road one-way by posting signs that would enable drivers to turn right off Pleasant Valley. The one-way restriction would go until Snyder's intersection with Wilderness Road.
“We think with just the proper signing, we can probably cut down our liability tremendously,” Light said.
Commissioner Charles Horvat said he's satisfied with the recommendation to make Snyder one-way.
“That prevents anyone from coming out of that road and being hit,” he said.
A later step could involve the township taking ownership of the road from the state. Under that scenario, Penn Township would receive $3,390 annually from the state for taking the road in lieu of the liquid-fuels money it now receives for the state to maintain it.
Even then, township officials might decide to close or relocate the road, especially if Waste Management shows interest in expanding the nearby Valley Landfill. Waste Management officials might be willing to assist with a road-relocation project, Light said.
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8671 or firstname.lastname@example.org.