MANCHESTER – Earlier this year resident Shawn Galbreath started a petition to address a problem that has existed for years. The intersection of Commonwealth Boulevard and Northampton Boulevard has been a magnet for accidents.
He and other residents wanted to see this situation change. “They (town and county officials) obviously know it’s an issue since rumble strips, flashing lights and flashing stop signs are already installed. It’s time something is done before someone else is seriously hurt or dies,” Galbreath said.
His solution was to add a traffic light. “If a traffic light was installed most of these accidents would stop!”
Galbreath said in a prior interview with The Manchester Times that the intersection has presented a safety problem since the 1950s. “I went to school in Manchester and back then it was a problem. It was a problem way before 20 years ago. I moved out of the area for a while but came back five years ago. There seems to be a bad accident there just about every week.”
Mayor Kenneth Palmer agreed with Galbreath that the issue needed attention. The mayor lives near the intersection in the Pine Lake Park section of town.
Galbreath noted at the time that “there are really three bad areas in the town when it comes to accidents, Broadway, First Avenue and this intersection. There have been plenty of times that I have taken that intersection and it is hard to see with the way the homes are situated. It is a hard intersection to turn on and many drivers are just moving too fast and I guess are trying to get home quicker.”
Mayor Palmer said the township had petitioned the county in the past, about four years ago and (the county) felt the traffic there did not justify a light at the intersection. “That’s when the county installed the rumble strips and the flashing stop signs.”
More recently Manchester petitioned the county again with updated traffic information and accident related information.
During a recent Manchester Council meeting Patrolman Ian Bole who has served as part of the police department’s traffic safety unit for six years gave an extensive report to the governing body and the public.
The officer noted that both roadways have county jurisdiction and that the department performed its own study regarding the general conditions of the intersection.
“We had a lot of reports of accidents for issues of people disregarding the stop signs, traffic violations, traffic backed up. We knew the warrants required to get a traffic light would not apply because the traffic volume is too low,” he said.
“The next best thing they suggested was the potential of a four way stop sign and the best answer to that would be is that it is problematic. What we have in that area is bus traffic. We have older drivers and we have crash data that suggested that over 24 months we had roughly 24 crashes,” Bole said.
“That it averages a crash per month. We’ve had one fatal crash in the last two years now,” he said.
Bole said adding that the contributing factor to those accidents were “most of the crashes are driver inattention and disregarding the stop sign. These are all choices the drivers make.”
“You have more crashes there on Route 37 and that is a controlled intersection of traffic,” the officer said. He described what is called the side angle, “which is what you see both to your left and your right at the intersection.”
One side is obstructed a bit by branches, he said. The county had said it was adequate but he did not agree. The more open the view is, the safer it is.
Bole did not like the idea of the four way stop “because people will try to avoid them. People have anxiety. People have confusion and people pull out into the intersection and you have four cars pulling up at the same time at a four way stop sign. People don’t know when to go. You could have increased areas of road rage. You could have issues with accidents and what we had in one month we could have most likely several if not more.”
The officer warned there could be accidents in other areas where traffic would be diverted away from the intersection should the four way stop scenario be put in place. He further recommended that the township’s Department of Public Works trim back the foliage in the area.
Trimming back the trees and foliage would allow further visibility for drivers looking to the right to see the flashing stop sign. “This should give drivers more time to exercise control once they see the stop sign and it would address any depth perception problem. We can reassess this in six months and see what we have,” Bole said.
The officer said that suggestions of speed humps would not be feasible given the speed limit of that area. They can also cause vehicle damage. Lowering the speed limit is also not an option as the township has no authority to lower it on a county road.
Assistant Business Administrator James Gant noted that the county mentioned restriking the rumble strips that were present there.
Council President Sam Fusaro said he’d like to see Bole’s recommendation followed through. “Let’s try this first.”