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Route 283 road work: State Police, PennDOT worried about number of accidents, urge caution

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 4/6/18

In 11 days since construction on Route 283 started in Lower Swatara and Londonderry townships, there have been 15 crashes — including one fatality involving a pedestrian.

“Fifteen …

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Route 283 road work: State Police, PennDOT worried about number of accidents, urge caution

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In 11 days since construction on Route 283 started in Lower Swatara and Londonderry townships, there have been 15 crashes — including one fatality involving a pedestrian.

“Fifteen crashes is a lot of crashes in two weeks,” State Police Trooper Brent Miller said.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Greg Penny said the accidents have gotten his agency’s attention.

“The contractor is concerned about the safety of his work crews out there,” Penny said.

Construction crews set up on March 26. The plan is to rebuild six miles of Route 283 from the Toll House Road interchange to the interchange with the Pennsylvania Turnpike and 283. Crews are working on the westbound route and will work on the eastbound route next year. Construction is expected to be completed by 2020.

Drivers are often initially confused when there’s a new traffic pattern. The first few weeks are an adjustment period, Penny said.

How are they planning on making the construction zone safer? Mostly, by increasing police presence.

The State Police mainly will focus on distracted drivers — which could include drivers using their phone, eating, fiddling with the radio or putting on makeup — as well as speeding drivers. People usually slow down when they see a police car on the road, Miller said.

“But we’re more concerned about speeding,” Penny said.

Speed and distracted driving led to the accidents, Miller said, seven of which involved commercial vehicles.

“There was one fatal pedestrian accident,” Miller said. The victim, who was killed last week by a commercial vehicle, was not a construction worker, he added.

“The pedestrian was found at fault due to they shouldn’t have been crossing the interstate at that point,” Miller said.

Miller said a man was hit by a commercial vehicle on west Route 283 near Oberlin Road in Lower Swatara Township at 6:59 a.m. Friday, March 30.

The man, he said, was transported to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center where he later died.

There were two crashes with injuries involving non-commercial vehicles, and one crash was related to driving under the influence.

The speed limit is 55 mph in the construction zone, and Penny said the contractor, Hempt Brothers, asked whether it could be lowered to 45 mph. PennDOT is unsure whether it wants to do that.

“We are seeing speeds that reach up into the areas of 70, which is way too fast for that area with the construction zone workers being active,” Miller said.

Penny said that on Thursday, PennDOT placed speed trailers — which display how fast a driver is going — in the construction zone.

“Hopefully, that will get across to people how fast they’re going and get them to adjust,” Penny said.

There are other issues with the project, Penny said, such as repairing potholes, which Penny said was difficult with recent cold temperatures. When the construction crews tried to erase the old traffic lines with high-pressured water, Penny said the pavement began breaking. The workers had to pull back on the water intensity, but left faint lines on the road. Penny said PennDOT was working to restripe the roads.

“If you’re used to taking this route for work or whatever reason, you need to pay attention and really adjust your timeframe that it’s going to take you a lot longer to take this road,” Miller said.

The construction project is estimated to cost $89.4 million. Penny said the cost for speed trailers would not be substantial. He said PennDOT sometimes pays for State Police presence in a work zone, adding that the State Police were taking the initiative in this scenario.

“But if we were to continue it as part of the project throughout this year and next year, that could add to the cost of the project and we just have to absorb it,” Penny said.

Penny encouraged drivers heading toward Eisenhower Boulevard or the Pennsylvania Turnpike to take the Express Lane.

If drivers are pulled over, Miller encouraged drivers to either pull off at an exit or pull over in one of the emergency pull-off zones.