ETNA (KDKA) — Since the construction barrels and markers were removed a couple of years ago, Route 28 from Pittsburgh to Kittanning, has been a non-stop drive.
Gone are the traffic lights and accidents at the 31st and 40th Street Bridges, but the new road has given birth to a new issue.
PennDOT District 11 Traffic Engineer Todd Kravits says, “We’re seeing traffic traveling a bit faster and they may not be paying as much attention as when traffic was a bit slower.”
Monday, there was a morning rush hour accident inbound near the Highland Park Bridge. On Tuesday morning, the red flags went up between Etna and Millvale.
“One vehicle rolled over and three other vehicles were involved in that,” says Cherry City Volunteer Fire Chief James Skalos.
The Cherry City volunteer firefighters and their neighboring departments have been spending a lot of time on Route 28 of late.
Chief Skalos says, “Recently, the past few months, we’ve been picking up with accidents down there.”
Three in the past week, and Cherry City didn’t respond to Monday’s accident.
Chief Skalos has seen a lot of accidents, and says, “I think I would attribute it to speed, not the posted speed limit, but the speed the vehicles are going and probably driver distraction.”
Controlling speed requires enforcement, and while there is a state trooper in the area during the rush hour, PennDOT says the road’s bobsled run design makes that tough on the police.
Kravits says, “First, they have to find a place to safely pull over to do the enforcement. which causes problems.”
A police officer with a car on the side of the road can cause as much distraction as an accident and create the possibility of rear-end crashes.
The impact of an accident, beyond injuries and financial losses, on the rush hour traffic is instantaneous and long lasting.
Kravits says, “Every 15 minutes a lane is closed it takes the road about an hour to recover.”
Forced lane changes due to a reduction to a single lane around the Highland Park Bridge contribute to accidents in that area. PennDOT is currently designing a fix for that problem with construction to run from 2020-2022.
It’s being done Kravits says, “So, we don’t have all those erratic movements that are taking place with people switching lanes at the last minute.”
But both PennDOT and the state police agree changes to the road will not alone solve the problem.
Kravits says, “Until people change their driving behaviors, we’re still going to see crashes.”