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Residents voice ire at no-left-turn plan

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2002

Some Upper St. Clair residents have expressed opposition to left-turn restrictions at Route 19 and Southern Hilands Drive, but agree something should be done to reduce speeding at the intersection.

William Eisinger said he and his wife witnessed a fatal crash there in March, the same accident that spurred police Chief Ron Pardini and municipal Manager Douglas Watkins to consider asking the state to prohibit left turns there.

Eisinger told commissioners Monday night that the driver involved "decided to move, when he shouldn't have. An intersection should not be blamed in this incident."

Five residents spoke out against the proposed restrictions and commissioners plan to hear more comments during their meeting Jan. 6.

Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to allow Watkins to discuss options afterward with PennDOT, which would have to make any changes at the intersection because Route 19 is a state road.

Eisinger said, however, that he and other residents, including about 10 at Monday's meeting, are pushing instead for better speed control on that stretch of the four-lane Route 19.

Watkins said efforts at reducing speeds near the intersection have proven fruitless because local police cannot use radar to catch speeders and motorists can go 10 mph over the current speed limit of 45 mph.

He said residents could contact their legislators to urge that the state lower the speed limit in order to save lives.

Joseph Nesto, of Upper St. Clair, died from injures he suffered in a March 13 accident at the intersection. Nesto had been trying to turn left from the northbound lanes of Route 19 onto Southern Hilands, when his vehicle collided with another one traveling southbound. He died about a month after the crash.

Police filed no charges in connection with the accident.

Eisinger said he and his wife, who live on Southern Hilands, were waiting in their vehicle to turn left from Route 19, southbound, when the crash occurred.

Nesto's accident, and another fatal crash in the late 1980s involving teenagers, spurred Pardini and Watkins to suggest that the commissioners hear comments on options for making the intersection safer.

Engineer Al Bumgardner, representing a Berkshire Drive resident, told commissioners that traffic comes in waves at the intersection, and motorists have ample opportunities to turn left off of Route 19.

He also blamed the problem on speeding.

But Pardini said the intersection is dangerous even when the drivers aren't going too fast. Visibility is limited because Route 19 is hilly there and stopping distances can be shortened by a line of cars waiting to turn onto Southern Hilands.

Watkins said Upper St. Clair pushed for left turn restrictions at the intersection about 15 years ago, after the previous accident. PennDOT complied, but residents complained and the signs eventually were removed. A traffic light was installed nearby at the intersection of Route 19 and Old Washington Road.

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