Traffic signal change in Osceola Mills prompts concerns

A view of the stop light at the intersection of Curtin and Stone streets in Osceola Mills borough.
A view of the stop light at the intersection of Curtin and Stone streets in Osceola Mills borough. psheehan@centredaily.com

A change in the traffic signal configuration at the intersection of Curtin and Stone streets in Osceola Mills has some people worried about the safety implications.

The traffic signal and signage changed Dec. 30.

According to a press release from the state Department of Transportation, stop signs were placed on Curtin Street at the intersection and the traffic signal on Stone Street was placed in a temporary yellow flashing mode.

A two-way stop will be enforced on Curtin Street with stop ahead and stop signs and the existing signal flashing red, the release said.

Traffic on Stone Street (state Route 53) will not have to stop, according to the release.

PennDOT will be monitoring the intersection through the spring, the release said.

Osceola Mills Mayor Ida Reams is against the change.

Hundreds of elementary school students cross Stone Street to get to school, she said.

Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District Superintendent Gregg Paladina echoed that concern, saying there’s no crosswalk or crossing guard at the intersection.

Not having a stop light at that intersection creates unnecessary risk, he said.

Ida Reams has started an online petition to keep the stop light. It had 143 supporters as of Friday.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the borough’s population to be 1,112 in 2014.

Ida Reams said she’s trying to get people involved and hopes she can present the petition to borough council and find a source of funding to pay for the repairs the traffic signal needs.

“There should be no reason for this,” she said.

But borough council disagrees.

In June, council voted unanimously to take out the traffic light. First though, there needs to be a traffic study completed to determine if the light is necessary.

Raymond Reams, borough council president, said Osceola Mills functions on a budget of about $180,000.

The maintenance on the stop light is estimated to cost between $70,000 and $90,000, he said, adding that the borough can’t spend that much of its annual budget on fixing a traffic light.

The light was put in by a private citizen in the 1970s, and the borough has been maintaining it since, he said. But now it needs a lot of work — updating crosswalk signs, wiring and switch boxes and making sure the poles are stable, among other things.

The reason that cost falls on the borough is because all traffic signals in Pennsylvania are owned and maintained by the municipality they are located in, said Jim Roman, PennDOT district 2 traffic signal section supervisor.

Roman said Osceola Mills received a Green Light-Go Grant for $6,000 from PennDOT — the borough would have to come up with $6,000 to match — that can be put toward removing the light — if the study deems it unnecessary — or updating it.

Before the signal can be removed, PennDOT will need to determine it’s safe to do so, Roman said.

PennDOT will complete a thorough investigation — seeing how the intersection performs safety-wise, getting feedback from the municipality, collaborating with state police, etc., he said.

The study will likely be completed in May because the grant money needs to be spent by the end of June, Roman said.

Councilwoman Rose Graner said she suggests that any borough residents with concerns come to the next council meeting and voice them. It’s 7 p.m. Jan. 16 at the borough building, 519 Pruner St.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz