How many more accidents have to litter car parts across U.S. Route 322 before we make a change?
As the old saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.
We’re crazy if we think another decade of speeding along one of Centre County’s busiest and most dangerous stretches of asphalt won’t result in more deaths.
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Besides numerous fender benders, the congested two lanes that wind around blind curves and up and down hills between Potters Mills and Boalsburg have seen too many serious crashes — two of them in recent days.
On Oct. 17, a tractor-trailer and two cars collided, heavily damaging all of the vehicles and severing one of the truck’s axles. One car driver was ejected and taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center with injuries. The other had to be extricated and flown to a regional trauma center.
Three days later, a school bus driver failed to stop in time for slowing traffic, rear-ending a car and pushing it into another vehicle. The first car then was sideswiped by another school bus approaching from the opposite direction.
Four people were injured, two of them taken to the hospital. In the tractor-trailer accident, miraculously, nobody died.
That wasn’t the case in 2011, when Arianna Krayo, a 20-year-old college student from Gettysburg on her way home, was killed after she strayed over the double line near Boalsburg into the path of an oncoming truck.
In 2009, State College Police Chief Tom King targeted the 9-mile stretch for speeding. His officers pulled over 27 motorists in an afternoon.
“That has been a deadly stretch of road for us,” he said at the time. “Of all our roads, that has been one of the most serious. There is a significant amount of speeding, tailgating and illegal passing.”
Boalsburg Fire Company Chief Van Winter said last year that three-quarters of crashes his firefighters respond to are on Route 322, including the most violent.
Help is coming — just not enough.
The state transportation bill passed last year will fund the Potters Mills Gap project: widening the road from Seven Mountains through Potters Mills and eliminating the treacherous intersection with state Route 144 at the village. That’s a great start.
But the $100 million project, slated to begin within a year, only covers about 4 miles. No funding has been officially set aside for the rest of the route to Boalsburg.
When money becomes available, engineers would have to go back to the drawing board for any improvements — such as expanding the present road to four lanes or creating a new, limited-access road as proposed by the South Central Centre County Transportation Study abruptly aborted in 2004.
We understand that a better, safer Route 322 isn’t in the cards any time soon. But neither can we wait another 10 years for more relief on a major corridor into the growing Centre Region.
We’re calling for local elected officials and planners to keep pounding at the state to green-light a new highway. We need one, and we need it as soon as possible.
Too many cars plus too little road will keep leading to accidents, as surely as two and two equals four.
To think otherwise is insane.