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Drivers protest dangerous stretch of East Franklin road

| Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010

EAST FRANKLIN — Motorists who travel Tarrtown Road past P.J. Greco Salvage, where tractor-trailer trucks unload scrap at all hours of the day, say they want that stretch of road to be made safer.

They say there are too many accidents there, where drivers have to pull their trucks across both lanes of traffic for access to the scrap yard's drive-on scale, where the lighting is dim at times and where rarely is there a flagman to direct the traffic coming from either direction.

A rally is planned for noon Saturday in front of the company to draw attention to those safety concerns.

The plea for safety comes following the death of a Kittanning woman whose sport utility vehicle crashed into a scrap truck on Tarrtown Road outside of the salvage company in the predawn hours of Jan. 7.

Angela Lynn Martin, 27, of Kittanning, died when her Pathfinder struck the rear axles of the truck's trailer in her lane of traffic. Investigators believe Martin was unable to see the trailer in time to react.

Ryan Rhodes, 25, of Kittanning, was injured in the accident as a passenger in Martin's vehicle, as was Robyn John, 27, of Kittanning.

Rhodes' family and friends are the organizers of the protest. They are asking people to gather at the Wick City Saloon in Kittanning at 11 a.m. to form before going to the crash site in front of Greco's.

The group wants better lighting in the area and suggests flagmen be present when trucks are stopped on the road to back onto the property .

No one from P.J. Greco Salvage would comment.

Kelli Myers, of Tarrtown, who regularly drives on Tarrtown Road, said that about eight hours after the fatal accident trucks were back again pulling across the road as earlier.

"It's a bad area when the trucks are unloading," said Myers. "There are times when it's dark and times when the road is wet. The lighting is dim and it's hard to see in that area."

"All we want is to make it safe," she said. "Whatever they need to make it safer for everyone. Take whatever precautions are necessary and insure nothing like this happens again."

Meanwhile, police are continuing to investigate the accident.

"As of right now I don't believe the accident reconstruction has been completed," Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi said Wednesday. "Once that is done I will be sitting down with Pennsylvania State Police to review the report and discuss whether charges are warranted."

Armstrong County Coroner Bob Bower reported Wednesday that Martin's blood-alcohol content level was .295 percent, more than three times the legal level to drive of .08 percent.

"Once state police finish their investigation, they will present the case to the district attorney," Bower said.

Bower confirmed that the group had been at somebody's house prior to the accident.

"We know there was alcohol involved," Bower said.

East Franklin Township Supervisor Chairman Barry Peters said the township has not been approached by any residents asking officials to regulate the unloading of trucks at the scrap yard, nor were any concerns about lighting in the area made to them. Peters said there have been complaints about speeding on Tarrtown Road.

Peters said he has heard discussions of relocating the weigh station, which he thinks might solve the problem.

PennDOT officials echoed township officials, saying they had no record of any complaints about lighting or signs at the salvage yard.

Spokesman Harold Swan said no formal requests had come to PennDOT from company officials or the township requesting the placement of street lights along Tarrtown Road in the vicinity of the property.

"Usually the requests come from the municipality and if lighting or signage is determined to be necessary, it is then up to the municipality or the property owners to pay for the installation and maintenance of lighting or signs," Swan said.

Swan noted that company officials could place lights on their property that would shine onto the roadway in the area where trucks are coming in and out of the facility or take other precautions, such as flagmen, to assist with traffic.

"As long as the lights are not violating the state right-of-way, they could place lighting on their property," he said. "Our main concern would be if they do install lights, that they would not cause a safety hazard to drivers with the direction of the beam."

Swan said those concerned over safety at the site should contact the township supervisors first. The township could then approach PennDOT about lighting and signs along the roadway if officials deemed it appropriate.

"It's a sad situation, but really there is nothing we can do at this point," Swan said. "We will gladly work with the township or the property owners if they determine that additional lights or signs are needed along the road."

Swan said the only complaints received concerning Greco have been random encroachment issues with materials on the property being too close to the roadway. He said the company complied with PennDOT requests to move the material.

"The only other issue along the road was in November 2006, when we were asked to do a traffic study to lower the speed limit along the road," he said. "We determined a speed limit change was not warranted because traffic along the road was already traveling at a higher rate of speed than the posted limit. That fact made it an enforcement issue with the municipality and was not something we could control."

Staff writers Patrick Shuster and Renatta Signorini contributed to this story.

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