The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

March 20, 2014

A drive toward safety; use caution in Goucher Street construction

JOHNSTOWN — It’s a temporary inconvenience that will result in permanent improvement.

That is how we can classify the safety improvements that just commenced on Goucher Street in suburban Johnstown.

The improvements were prompted by PennDOT studies showing that vehicle crashes on the stretch of Goucher Street between Dundee Lane and Westgate Drive is 1.5 times higher than on similar roads. Twenty-three crashes were reported from 2007-2012 between Willett and Westgate drives alone.

Although we don’t profess to know why there have been so many accidents, we are in favor of anything that can be done to alleviate them.

The project is designed to narrow traffic lanes through the area in an effort to slow the traffic flow and to improve the safety of pedestrians.

Upgrades that will be included in the one-mile long, $3.9 million project are a turning lane and traffic signal at Willett Drive and upgrades to existing traffic signals at Menoher Boulevard and Plaza Drive.

Also on PennDOT’s blueprints are resurfacing, drainage work, new curbs and sidewalk upgrades along the length of the project.

One of the major sticking points of the plan was the removal of trees. Original plans called for up to 58 trees to be culled in order to improve drivers’ sight distance. After residents and businesses complained, that number has been revised to 50. As a compromise, PennDOT said some of the trees will be replaced.

“I think there was a lot of concern on how it was going to change the community,” Vince Greenland, PennDOT’s assistant district executive for design, told our Kathy Mellott. “People are passionate about their communities.”

PennDOT also has listened to concerns from businesses in the area that will be affected by the construction. The entrepreneurs were troubled by the potential loss of customers, and PennDOT officials relented by agreeing to keep the route open as much as possible. Construction will be done during both daylight and nighttime, said Tara Callahan-Henry, PennDOT’s information officer.

“I think there was a lot of misinformation,” Greenland said.

We hope that the misunderstandings have been addressed adequately and that the project can be embraced by all involved.

Another major improvement in the area will be the upgrading of handicapped ramps, delineating crosswalks and painting medians throughout.

Residents, children and clients of the Hiram G. Andrews Center often can be seen on the sidewalks as they make their way to visit businesses or an athletic field in the area.

Frankly, we couldn’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be in favor of any improvements that will help keep people safe?

We urge motorists, and pedestrians, to use caution when traveling in the construction zone. Motorists may be concentrating on maneuvering around the construction equipment, orange traffic barrels or following detour signs and may not see pedestrians who may be trying to get across the street.

The last thing that is needed is more accidents in a construction zone designed to alleviate them.

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