Roadwork and Traffic Top Discussions At Wyalusing Township Meeting
By Rick Hiduk
If you were used to getting to work in 25 minutes, you ought to plan on 40 to 45 now. That corner that you used to cruise around at 40 miles per hour, you might want to approach at 30. Slow down as you approach any intersection on the assumption that you are going to share it with numerous vehicles. That 55 mph zone that used to support a few cars every 15 minutes likely carries twice or three times as many vehicles now. Get used to it.
That was the “facts of life” message offered by the Wyalusing Township Supervisors at the Aug. 2 meeting in response to ongoing road renovation, pipeline installation projects, and the industry-related increase in population in the greater Wyalusing area. Chairman Marvin Meteer urged all local residents to exercise more caution and patience and to use good judgment when planning one’s commute or day trip. School buses will also soon enough be added to the mix, and the supervisors share the concerns of parents and Wyalusing Area School District (WASD) officials that children be transported to and from the expanded campus safely.
School board chairperson Deborah Stethers, who had introduced the district’s new superintendent, Chester Mummau, to the supervisors at the start of the meeting, pointed out that impatient local residents are cited by district bus drivers as being more of a risk to students than truck drivers. She also asked Meteer who among municipal authorities and gas company officials would serve as the most reliable contact to apprise school officials of temporary and long-term road closures. The supervisors didn’t name a definitive source, though both they and Stethers agreed that most companies have been cooperative so far.
As per concerns about several trucking companies who are sharing the school district’s exit road, Stethers related that the companies have collectively agreed, in theory, that they will limit truck traffic in and out of the road during peak school bus time. So far, she conceded, such has been more likely in the afternoon than in the morning. Most in attendance seemed in agreement that many of the industrial trailers moved through the intersection should probably have more room, but the roadway was completed as one of the initial phases of the campus construction project and designed without a comprehension of the full impact of the gas boom.
Although numerous efforts are underway to both relieve congestion and provide better roads, some of the solutions have altered driving conditions in ways that motorists will have to take into consideration when heading out. Numerous complaints have been levied with township officials and the Rocket-Courier about the fact that the rebuilt roads, which are often wider and have a smoother surface, entice motorists to drive faster. Reconstructed roadbeds are often higher than they used to be, and the diversion ditches alongside them are deeper, which has resulted in people who leave the roadway getting stuck.
Expanded shoulders and reduced speed limits are a few of the solutions that the supervisors are looking at to address several problem spots. The supervisors reaffirmed their resolve to ensure that shoulder width be adequate to support the passing of tanker trucks and that, once a renovated road is completed, any new pipelines will have to be bored underneath the roadbed. Meteer also indicated that the township needs to take another look at its own road maintenance priority list before committing a budget to it, as plans expressed by gas drilling and pipeline companies shift periodically.
Not only has Chesapeake Energy taken the reconstruction of many township roads under its wing, Meteer said that the township planners also have to look at where the industry appears to be headed next, which will include the construction of compressor stations. “It’s foolish for us to fix the roads if they are going to bring heavy equipment in on them,” he stated. It is Meteer’s understanding that each new compressor station built will serve 40 gas wells.
“For as many gas wells as we have, that’s a lot of compressor stations,” he remarked.
In the meantime, PennDOT responded positively to the township’s recent request for a traffic study on SR 2025, which technically has an unmarked 55 mph speed limit that was difficult for motorists to achieve before its resurfacing. Residents who walk along the road have been forced to step off into the aforementioned deep ditches to avoid being hit by drivers taking blind corners at high speeds. Since a portion of the road in question has yet to be resurfaced, PennDOT put off the study until the fall and reminded the supervisors that the township would be responsible for the cost of any speed limit signs, the quantity and placement location of which will be determined by the state agency. While the solution may not be immediate, the supervisors seemed satisfied with the quick response.
Supervisors are still interested in reducing the speed limit from 55 to 45 mph east of Wyalusing borough, a request that was previously denied by PennDOT. A proposal to have No Parking signs installed along Route 6 between the borough and Wyalusing-New Albany Road was also turned down last year. Board secretary Maxine Meteer suggested that readdressing both situations in a single new proposal, coupled with the widely-reported increase in traffic through the stretch, might garner an approval of both of the supervisors’ goals.
In other news, WASD superintendent Mummau and Stethers formerly invited the supervisors to the district’s open house and ribbon cutting celebration at the new elementary school, which will be held on Monday, Aug. 22.
The new pickup truck has been placed in service, but the old one took an unexpected turn for the worse a few days later. The township had hoped to sell the vehicle publicly, but Meteer doubted its value in its current condition. He, supervisor Lanny Stethers, and Arthur Allyn agreed that the plow and tires on the old truck are worth more at this point than the vehicle. Township roadmaster Jerry Cooley is scheduled to make an assessment of the situation and determine whether or not it would be cost-effective to make repairs to the vehicle before the board decides how to sell it. Concurrently, the new truck and plow were added to the insurance policy at an additional cost of $627 annually.
Wyalusing Public Library administrators sent a Thank You noted to the board for their recent $350 donation.
The board voted to approve newly-amended bylines proposed by the Eastern Bradford Council of Government, an organization that, Lanny Stethers noted, takes seriously what the township supervisors have to say and benefits the municipality by connecting them with resources and advocacy.
Marvin Meteer asked for an update on the proposed sale of the former Camptown Elementary School. Mummau confirmed that the building is under contract, but there are some contingencies that need to be worked out. He subsequently noted that the list price for the former Wyalusing Elementary School has been reduced to $899,000.
Meteer noted that there was little new news on what might become of the former Wells Mill site, which was all but wiped clean this past week. Property owners have only indicated to the Wyalusing Township supervisors that they hope to attract businesses or housing/commercial combinations that will be appealing to the community. They also reportedly expressed an interest in attracting a business that could utilize the Lehigh Railroad line that runs between the property and the river.
The next meeting will be held a week later than usual on Tuesday, Sept. 13.