PennDOT taking on 'challenge' of reworking stretch of Route 30
February 29, 2016 12:00 AM
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Difficult” and “challenging” are the words officials keep coming back to when they describe a six-mile corridor of Route 30 in Westmoreland County from just across the Allegheny County border to Irwin.
The area — from Route 48 in North Versailles, through North Huntingdon, to 10th Street in Irwin — is a heavily traveled, mostly four-lane commercial stretch featuring car dealerships and other businesses. Many of those businesses are built to the edge of the highway.
In addition to congestion, the area has a high amount of traffic accidents due to drainage problems, a series of vertical curves and poor sight lines.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has been working behind the scenes for about six months to gather information about the corridor and will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Norwin High School cafeteria to hear ideas on how to address the problems. The agency is conducting a $1 million study to propose alternatives to improve the area and hopes it will lead to a series of construction projects beginning in about five years.
“We’re just looking to upgrade and improve safety in that area,” said Nancy Kolenc, PennDOT’s project manager.
“It’s a very built-out area. That’s why we’re going to have to look at what kind of things we can do there. It’s going to be a very challenging project.”
Ms. Kolenc has been working with consultant Whitman, Requardt & Associates and held private meetings with elected officials and business owners to understand problems in the area. Together, they broke the corridor into eight smaller chunks and will develop recommendations for each segment.
Michael Turley, assistant township manager for North Huntingdon, has attended some of the preliminary meetings. He said the township is very interested in recommendations for improvements.
“PennDOT has a pretty good, methodical process,” he said. “We’re interested to see what they come up with because it’s going to be a design challenge.
“There’s not a lot of room there. It can be done. It has been done in other areas like that, so we want to see what they come up with.”
Rich Siniawski, an officer with the Norwin Chamber of Commerce, said it is important for business owners to attend the meeting so their voices are heard.
He’s concerned that PennDOT could suggest installing concrete barriers between the east and west lanes as it did on another section of the highway between Adamsburg and Jeannette. That worked there because there were few businesses, but it could create serious access problems to businesses in this corridor, he said.
“It’s very difficult to go into that area and do a whole lot,” he said. “The businesses are right up against the road. I can see the concerns for safety, but we have to be concerned about the businesses, too.”
Changes such as adding turning lanes or widening shoulders would be difficult to accomplish because of how close businesses are to the highway.
Ms. Kolenc is aware of the room limitations but said PennDOT has no preconceived notions of what it will recommend.
“We’ll see where the information takes us,” she said.
Recommendations should be finalized by the end of the year, followed by preliminary and final design. Ms. Kolenc said she expects work to be done in sections that could begin in five years, although any immediate safety projects could begin sooner.
Ed Blazina: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1470.
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