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Stop signs to replace signal on Homer City's Main Street

| Saturday, June 8, 2013, 8:03 a.m.

Homer City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to authorize replacement of the Main Street traffic signal with a four-way stop sign, in accordance with a study conducted through the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission's regional traffic signal program.

Domenic D'Andrea, project manager of the program, said a study that included traffic counts completed last October determined the traffic light no longer is justified at the intersection of Elm Street.

Dan Tyger of PennDOT pointed out the counts were taken on a Friday, which is normally when heaviest traffic volumes occur, but they still failed to reach levels that would require a traffic signal. D'Andrea said the study also took into account turning motions, pedestrian counts and any accident history at the intersection.

Council President Richard Morris cast the sole vote against replacing the signal with stops signs.

“I'd like to request it to stay,” Morris said of the signal, which has been in place since the early 1960s. “I don't understand why all of a sudden the light has to go.”

“If it's not broke, why fix it?” asked council member Elizabeth Brown.

Several council members asked what would happen if the borough decided against removal of the signal. D'Andrea said he was not sure what specific consequences there might be. But he pointed out the borough, by taking such a stance, would be in default of an agreement it entered into to have the study done and to abide by its results.

He explained, if the study had found the signal was warranted, it would have been eligible for upgrades, such as replacement of incandescent lights with LED lights. Instead, the study indicated the signal should be replaced with stop signs.

Jennifer Jaworski, who seconded Joe Iezzi's motion to proceed with the change to stop signs, suggested that the aging signal is “not going to last much longer.” If the borough were to pull out of its agreement with the regional signal program, she said, it would have to shoulder all the responsibility for either replacing the signal, at an estimated cost of up to $250,000, or transitioning to a four-way stop.

“At some point, probably in the very near future, this is something we're going to have to address,” she said.

Under the regional program, 80 percent of costs are covered by federal funds with the borough paying the remaining 20 percent.

D'Andrea said the work of removing the signal and installing stop signs would probably be bid next fall, along with another local project being pursued under the regional signal program — proposed upgrades, retiming and synchronization of signals at 21 intersections along Philadelphia Street and the Route 286/Oakland Avenue corridor in Indiana Borough and White Township.

The 90-day transition to a four-way stop in Homer City could occur early next spring. During that test period, Tyger said, the signs would be in place and the signal would flash red to warn motorists of the changes at the intersection.

If any problems crop up during the test period, the change to stop signs could be reevaluated, he said. There will also be follow-up monitoring once the signs are in place.

Mayor Ken “Cal” Cecconi expressed concern that, with the stop signs in place, traffic might back up along Main Street at the end of the school day or work day. He also wondered if traffic might increase on adjacent alleys from motorists avoiding the stop signs.

Tyger said the study at the intersection indicated traffic should move more quickly through stop signs than a signal. He noted that PennDOT is “very limited” in what it can do to help municipalities address problems on streets that are not part of the state system.

Regarding the other traffic signal in town, at routes 119 and 56, the borough had requested that PennDOT consider adding a strobing feature. But a letter from the local District 10 PennDOT office cited 2009 regulations prohibiting strobes within or adjacent to any intersection with a signal.

Cecconi reported that Anthony Jellison, who has been a part-time borough police officer for a number of years, will be promoted to a full-time sergeant effective Aug. 1. He will fill a position that has remained vacant since Dave Kanouff's retirement early this year.

Until then, Police Chief Lou Sacco will continue as the department's only full-time member. A complement of seven part-time officers includes recent hire Nick Tartalone, who has completed his training and is ready to begin patrol duty.

Council passed an annual resolution acknowledging that members of the police department's collective bargaining unit do not have to make contributions toward their pension plan.

At the suggestion of Jaworski, council authorized Sacco and borough manager Rob Nymick to meet with borough solicitor Mike Supinka to review about a half dozen borough ordinances that need updated.

Nymick, who was absent, submitted a written public works report. He noted street sweeping has been completed, curbs have been painted and six parking meters were repaired on Main Street.

Regarding work on Columbia Avenue, he reported that catchbasins were rebuilt and the surface was milled in preparation for paving.

Additionally, Nymick noted a meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday between borough officials and the Center Township supervisors to discuss a proposed consolidation involving the neighboring municipalities that has been under study.

Iezzi suggested consolidation meetings be held in the evening hours so that council members can attend.

Nymick reported that Homer City's public swimming pool was painted, and Jaworski noted the pool is now open for the season, from noon to 6 p.m. daily.

Sacco said his department was preparing for an influx of players and fans this weekend for a series of fast-pitch softball games at Floodway Park. The games are part of a tournament organized by Indiana University of Pennsylvania for players age 18 and younger at several sites throughout the county. According to the tournament website, games at Floodway Park were to begin at 4:30 p.m. Friday and at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Sacco expects the limited parking around the park would be an issue and said he would check to see if overflow parking could be arranged at nearby businesses.

Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or jhimler@tribweb.com.

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