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PennDOT says no to left-turn signal at Main and Union

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 8/1/18

A new left-turn signal that would make it easier for drivers heading east on Main Street in Middletown to turn left onto North Union Street is not warranted, the Pennsylvania Department of …

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PennDOT says no to left-turn signal at Main and Union

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A new left-turn signal that would make it easier for drivers heading east on Main Street in Middletown to turn left onto North Union Street is not warranted, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has told borough officials.

Despite that finding, borough council and staff are looking at alternatives to mitigate what Middletown officials see as a traffic headache at the borough’s busy square.

One possibility could be to lengthen how long the existing light stays green for eastbound motorists on Main Street, although that too could require PennDOT permission as Main Street — Route 230 — is a state-owned road.

PennDOT’s determination that a dedicated left-turn signal at the intersection for drivers to turn left onto North Union is not warranted was based on results of a traffic study completed for the borough by borough consulting engineers HRG, and sent to PennDOT.

Council in May had approved having HRG do the study at a cost not to exceed $5,000. The study was sought primarily by Council Vice President Dawn Knull.

Knull said that a left-turn signal for motorists to turn from Main onto North Union has been needed for years, but that the situation has been compounded by more traffic using Main Street in recent months as a result of the construction project on Route 283.

In addition, at the request of borough resident Robert Hauser, the HRG study also looked at making the intersection at Main and Union safer for pedestrians to cross, by providing a time period during which traffic would stop in all directions.

Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter told council on July 17 that despite PennDOT’s finding that the study does not warrant adding a special left-turn signal, the law allows municipalities to request PennDOT approve such a signal, in the event that “residents have raised concerns.”

However, it would cost the borough about another $2,000 to have HRG submit this type of application, Klinepeter said. The money would not be refundable to the borough, he told council.

If PennDOT approved the application, it would cost the borough between $7,000 and $8,000 to install the new signal and the new programming for pedestrian safety, according to a price quote obtained by borough Public Works Director Greg Wilsbach.

However, Klinepeter told council that the project would exceed the price quote obtained by Wilsbach, due to “an additional requirement” that would be imposed by PennDOT.

At that point, Wilsbach suggested looking into lengthening the amount of time that the light stays green at the intersection for east bound traffic on Main.

The change may only be in effect during certain times of day when the east bound traffic on Main is heaviest, such as in the afternoon, Wilsbach noted.

Even without a special left-turn arrow, this could allow more vehicles to make the turn onto North Union at the intersection. Lengthening the timing of the green light also would be less costly than putting in the new left-turn arrow signal, Wilsbach said.

Council directed Wilsbach to have HRG check with PennDOT on adjusting the timing for how long the light stays green for east bound traffic at the intersection, and to report back.