College Township traffic safety improvements speed ahead

jvanderk@centredaily.comMarch 1, 2013 

— Traffic safety at two intersections is on the township’s radar, and last week its council approved moving ahead on improvements at Park Avenue and Hospital Drive, as well as Boalsburg, Brush Valley and Linden all roads in Oak Hall.

At Park and Hospital, which leads to Mount Nittany Medical Center, township engineer Kent Baker recommended and the council approved changing the signal so that drivers turning left from Park to Hospital have a “protected-prohibited” green arrow. That means oncoming traffic would be stopped during that movement, and the left-turn traffic would be stopped when oncoming traffic has a green light.

Baker said State College police started noticing problems at the intersection in early 2012, after the intersection was reconfigured during the Park Avenue widening in late 2011.

“Police started noticing there were more accidents at that intersection,” he said. “The average was three accidents per year and, after the widening, it jumped to 10.”

The analysis was based on a five-year history of crashes, and Baker said seven of the 10 were the result of the left turn from Park to Hospital. He said it appears that some drivers are misjudging when it’s safe to turn left.

Because the township maintains the signal under a state Department of Transportation permit, that permit must be revised, requiring a study by the township’s consultant, Trans Associates. The study also will look at the two signals at Park and U.S. Route 322, which are coordinated with the Hospital Drive signal, at a total cost of not more than $3,450.

Township Council Chairman Dave Fryer asked how big a project would result after the study, and Baker predicted the study itself will have the largest cost.

“I think the construction cost would be less than this,” he said.

The council also approved further study of the Oak Hall intersection of Boalsburg, Brush Valley and Linden Hall roads, begun almost a year ago to look at safety there, in part because of the new Oak Hall regional park coming online in that area.

The major concern is speed, both of passenger vehicles and quarry trucks, with the posted speed limit changing quickly between 25 and 45 miles per hour, and traffic going to and from Route 322.

Keller Engineers initially studied the feasibility of a roundabout, which proved not to be a viable option. Brian Smith, a highway engineer for Keller, came back last week to explain which of the options in PennDOT’s Traffic Calming Handbook the agency would find acceptable at that intersection.

He offered five options — a raised intersection, multiway stop, non-physical measures like striping and radar speed displays, narrowed lanes and shoulders, and curbs and a bike lane on Boalsburg Road.

“Those last two options are the more viable, bang for the buck, kind of thing,” Smith said. With the last option, he pointed out the intersection currently is quite wide. “It’ll have a narrowing affect through the intersection and slow folks down as well.

Smith said Keller will meet again with PennDOT and bring back design options in three to four weeks. That approved work is not to exceed $6,755.

Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.

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