Residents worried about PennDOT’s Bentleyville plans

December 11, 2012
A view of the proposed changes to the Bentleyville and Ginger Hill interchanges on Interstate 70

PennDOT’s proposed closure of the Ginger Hill exit ramps off Interstate 70 has some residents concerned that the project will create safety and traffic problems.

The Bentleyville Interchange Improvement Project includes widening I-70 to provide a broader median, lengthening and reconfiguring ramp acceleration and deceleration lanes, eliminating the Route 917 (Pittsburgh Road) interchange at Ginger Hill, and improving secondary roadways. The Ginger Hill exit ramps will be eliminated, and traffic will be re-routed onto the Bentleyville and Kammerer exits.

PennDOT community relations coordinator Valerie Petersen said the purpose of the proposed project is to make the stretch of Interstate 70 along the Ginger Hill and Bentleyville exits, 32A and 32B, safer. Petersen said the accident and fatality rates along that section of highway are among the highest in the area.

But there are residents who believe the closure of the Ginger Hill exit and a proposed roundabout at the Bentleyville exit will cause problems.

Among their concerns are that closing the Ginger Hill exit will adversely affect fire department and emergency vehicle service response time; will increase traffic delays, backups and bottlenecks at the Pilot Truck Stop area, Pittsburgh Road and Main Street; and will result in damage to local roads including Pittsburgh Road, Wilson Road and Carlton Drive, which they believe are not equipped to handle increased traffic and tri-axle trucks.

Bentleyville Mayor Tom Brown and borough residents have set up a meeting with PennDOT officials at 4 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Bentleyville fire hall to discuss the proposed interchange project, which is scheduled to get under way in 2015.

“The more I looked at the plan, and the more we talked to everybody who lives in the area, including people who live in Ellsworth, Cokesburg and places like that, the more concerns I had. You’re going to have such a logjam coming off (the Bentleyville) exit during the hours of 4 to 6 p.m. You wouldn’t believe how much traffic there is during those hours,” said Brown. “It’s going to be a terrible inconvenience.”

Bentleyville residents Mary Wolfe and Kirsten Donatelli have started a petition to prevent the closing of the Ginger Hill exit ramps, and they are encouraging business owners, area residents and anyone who might be affected by the proposed exit closing to attend the upcoming meeting and sign the petition.

Shawn Pilla, owner of Carry Call Products, a Connellsville company with 35 trucks that use the Pilot truck stop for fuel and the truck wash, wrote in an email he believes a roundabout will cause accidents and will be dangerous because of the high volume of tractor-trailers that use the Bentleyville exit.

“Most roundabouts are used for the purpose of keeping traffic flowing in high car volume areas,” wrote Pilla.

Petersen encouraged people to look at the project outline on its website, – which also includes data on roundabouts, which PennDOT says reduces the amount of accidents because vehicles are restricted to making right hand turns - and to contact project manager Troy Pitts at 724-415-2401.

“We’ll always listern to their concerns. Our main goal is to reduce the number of accidents and fatals,” said Petersen.

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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