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Trouble with the turn: Ferguson Twp., PennDOT may reopen safety talks after Pine Grove Mills crash

Kline’s Garage and a home are damaged from a recent accident at the intersection. The intersection of Route 45 and Route 26 in Pine Grove Mills has been the site of several accidents over the years October 8, 2014.
Kline’s Garage and a home are damaged from a recent accident at the intersection. The intersection of Route 45 and Route 26 in Pine Grove Mills has been the site of several accidents over the years October 8, 2014. CDT photo

The future of a troubled intersection remains up in the air after a crash Saturday that sent a woman to the hospital and left a house in ruins.

A tractor-trailer was heading north and downhill on McAlevys Fort Road (state Route 26) toward Pine Grove Mills and, in an attempt to make a left turn onto Pine Grove Road (state Route 45), the truck veered into Kline’s Garage, 107 W. Pine Grove Road, and the duplex next door, according to police.

The truck was driven by Alexandre Rocha, 37, of Shrewsbury, Mass., police said Tuesday. An investigation into the crash is ongoing.

In 2006, a tractor-trailer lost its brakes while heading down the mountain and crashed through Kline’s Garage, killing David Carson, 59, of Boalsburg, a customer in the garage.

Mark Kline has declined to comment on the accidents.

In light of the 2006 crash, a $2.4 million safety project was proposed that would add another runaway truck ramp to the mountain.

“A public meeting was held about a year ago in relation to the second truck ramp,” PennDOT community relations coordinator Marla Fannin said in an email. “Public response showed that there was not sufficient interest to move the project forward. At the time, sufficient funding for the project was not available.”

PennDOT can’t speculate on whether current safety measures were used or if an additional ramp would have helped if it were available, Fannin said.

Ferguson Township is not planning any additional safety improvements or alternatives for the road, township Manager Mark Kunkle said. Based on public input, the board of supervisors didn’t place priority on a ramp in the long-term implementation plan.

“I think everyone is sorry to see a second accident on that mountain,” he said. “I don’t think anyone anticipated that happening this quickly after the last.”

The road is likely to be the topic of discussion with the Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization, he said. The MPO technical committee is scheduled to meet Nov. 12, and the coordinating committee will meet Nov. 25.

He said it’s safe to say the road won’t be on any supervisors’ agenda until after November.

The MPO may want to make a second ramp a higher priority when looking at the long-range plan, Centre Region principal transportation planner Tom Zilla said.

“Back in 2006, after the fatal crash, the MPO moved quickly with PennDOT to secure funds for the phase-one runaway ramp,” he said. “That was completed in 2011. That’s about as fast as you’ll see a project like that move.”

Peggy Weaver, who works at the Shell gas station at the intersection of the crash, said trucks often travel down the hill too fast.

“They need to slow that down,” she said.

There is a ramp farther up the road, but Weaver said it would be better if there were a ramp closer to the intersection.

Weaver also said she doesn’t think the intersection is safe for pedestrians either, because there are no crosswalks and only a flashing red light. “It would be better if they had a regular light,” she said.

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