N. Strabane residents question viability of roundabout

September 12, 2013
Linda Mari, consultant and project manager for the proposed double roundabout, talks with property owners, Dave Rush, left, and his father, Bernie Rush, of Eighty Four, during the public plans display at the North Strabane Township municipal building Thursday. The roundabout will take part of their property and make access to Route 519 more difficult, the Rushes said. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Christine Yankel isn’t crazy about roundabouts. Yet her gripe with the proposed double roundabout at the intersection of Route 519 and Brownlee Road in North Strabane Township has more to do with the community’s future than personal preference.

“Where are we moving as a community? Are we moving from a rural community to a suburban community?” she asked. “… I did move to Eighty Four for the rural community, to have more land, to have more space for my children.”

Yankel is one of several township residents who raised questions regarding PennDOT’s proposed double roundabout plan during a public forum at the township municipal building Thursday. PennDOT displayed maps and a simulated video of how traffic would navigate the roundabouts.

The double roundabout is PennDOT’s proposed solution to a number of vehicle accidents that have plagued the intersection for years. Instead of facing a stop sign or traffic light, drivers would only need to yield when entering the roundabouts, which would be separated by a 500-foot stretch of road.

Yankel, who lives on Brownlee Road, said the double roundabouts will bring a higher volume of traffic. She thinks a traffic light and roadside mirror would be a more practical solution to reduce car crashes. Formerly of North Carolina, Yankel said locals drivers will likely have a difficult time adjusting to navigating a new roundabout.

“More than likely, people will get stuck in that center lane as I did when I first moved to North Carolina,” she said. “I literally went around and around that center lane trying to figure out how to merge with the traffic that’s in the outside lane.”

According to the proposed plan,the speed limit would decelerate as drivers approach the roundabout, and the speed limit inside the roundabout would be 20 miles per hour.

Tammy Dunn, who has lived on Route 519 for over 20 years, is concerned that the drivers who currently speed through the intersection will continue to do so even when there is a roundabout. Dunn is also concerned that construction will devalue her property.

“They’re coming right up to our front door basically,” she said. “We have about six to eight pine trees that basically give us refuge from 519, but they’re going to take those out.”

Pam Kelly, who lives on 519, offered a more optimistic opinion of the roundabout plan.

“I think it will work once people figure out how to drive through it, once they know what they’re supposed to do and if they follow the speed limit,” Kelly said.

Each roundabout would have two lanes going in each direction, and drivers inside the roundabout would have the right of way.

James Sisul, project manager at the PennDOT District 12 office in Uniontown, said they are still working on securing rights of way for the project, which is estimated to cost between $3 million and $5 million. He described these as “partial takes” and said PennDOT negotiating with 13 claimants who live on the edges of the site plan. PennDOT purchased and now owns one rental property that currently lies in the middle of the first proposed roundabout.

According to PennDOT’s projected timeline, construction of the first roundabout is set to begin in summer or fall 2014, and construction on the second roundabout will begin in spring 2015. The entire project is expected to be completed by fall 2015.

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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