Residents request sign near bus stop

For the CDTJuly 11, 2014 

Route 322 in Rush Township at Laurel Acres Lane is the location of a bus stop, where accidents commonly occur. The speed limit is 55 mph, and it is a major artery from Philipsburg to State College. Residents want a sign beyond the crest of the hill to warn drivers.

SHAWN INLOW — For the CDT

— When a tractor-trailer roared past a stopped school bus this spring on U.S. Route 322 outside Philipsburg, it was the third near-miss since last fall.

The residents around Laurel Acres Lane have had enough, and Thursday night descended on the Rush Township Board of Supervisors meeting seeking action on a safety proposal they say is taking too long.

The bus stop is about 600 feet from the crest of a hill on a main artery, just across from the state police barracks at Philipsburg, where the speed limit is 55 mph. Residents such as Penny Straw say the situation is dangerous, and they’ve started a campaign to lower the speed limit and place a flashing warning sign east of the bus stop to warn westbound traffic.

The holdup is that the state Department of Transportation is conducting studies of the matter and will set the parameters for such a sign. Rush Township must pay for the sign and maintain it.

According to township engineer Michelle Merrow, PennDOT has completed the study relative to the speed limit and will not lower it.

Strike one for the residents, who are counting the days until school starts Aug. 27.

State police Sgt. John Murarik attended the meeting and discussed the near-accident in May. He told the supervisors that an out-of-state commercial vehicle was traveling westbound and could not stop in time for the school bus. The driver went around the bus, but a trooper who was pulling out of the adjacent barracks captured the incident on his car’s video camera.

“Signs only help if people pay attention to them,” said Murarik, “But if a sign will prevent even one accident, then that’s a good thing.”

“Last fall,” said Straw, “a trailer rolled over to avoid a collision. In another incident this spring, a tractor-trailer skidded to a stop 1 foot short of hitting a school bus.”

The supervisors are not opposed to the safety measure and have not taken a vote to this point. They can’t. The holdup simply is a matter of due process.

“The supervisors and PennDOT are aware that this (new sign) needs to be up by the start of school,” Merrow said. “The township’s roadmaster, Tom Bainey, has been looking into it and our estimates are that the sign will cost between $5,000 and $9,500.”

Merrow said that the only issue remaining is final word from PennDOT on what the specifications of the signage should be. Afterward, the supervisors can vote to approve the funds and apply for a sign permit to complete the process.

In the meantime, PennDOT has placed a radar speed sign west of Laurel Acres Lane to remind motorists of their speed as they crest the hill traveling Route 322 toward Philipsburg.

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