Route 136 bridge construction detour causing problems

October 17, 2013
A bridge construction project at Route 136 and Brownlee Road in Somerset Township is forcing truck traffic onto secondary roads and causing problems for nearby residents. - Mike Jones / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The bridge reconstruction project at Route 136 and Brownlee Road in Somerset Township is forcing truck traffic onto secondary roads and causing problems for nearby residents.

Construction began Monday and people living on Young Road say large trucks and tankers began using the narrow shortcut as an unofficial detour around the closure.

Resident Karl Kirschner said he’s concerned about the trucks tearing up the township road or a bad accident on the blind curve near the house he shares with his wife, Judy.

“There is going to be a heck of a wreck and someone is going to get hurt,” Kirschner said. “This road is too narrow. The road here isn’t made for this. They’re making a muddy mess. Who is going to fix that?”

Signs informing motorists of the road closure heading eastbound on Route 136 appear to funnel traffic onto Young Road. Meanwhile, because the on-ramp to Interstate 70 east from Route 519 is closed, the official detour takes motorists west on I-70 to Interstate 79 south to the Laboratory exit, where they have to turn around to get back on I-70 east. Somerset supervisors’ Chairman Dave Blackburn thinks that detour is causing even more confusion.

Township road crews repositioned a sign announcing weight restrictions on the road. Blackburn also spoke to state police Thursday morning about keeping a closer eye on truck traffic in the area.

“It’s pretty much the trucks that are the big concern,” Blackburn said. “I don’t know if it’s poor planning or just the signage. Or maybe it’s the GPS sending them on alternate routes.”

State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Valerie Petersen said engineers can look at the signage again to determine if changes need to be made. She added that PennDOT detours can only send motorists onto state roads and that police can monitor for any weight limit violations.

Blackburn acknowledged the road “is not one of our better ones” in the township and is concerned how rainy conditions this week have caused large ruts to form on the shoulders.

“You can tell on the edges … it’s rutting because of the wetness,” Blackburn said. “It’s not wide enough for two cars so they have to run on the shoulder.”

The construction project is expected to take about a month, but residents aren’t sure if they – or the road – can handle the traffic for that long. Some residents have suggested they close the road and only allow local traffic, or make it one-way stretch until the construction is finished.

“It’s just not something we want to put up with for 30 days,” Judy Kirschner said. “Who’s going to fix all of this? Our road is breaking up already.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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