Adding a left-turn signal for motorists who are southbound on Route 309, trying to turn east on SR54, would improve the traffic flow but not fix the flood of problems drivers face in the area, Sgt. Duane Frederick of Rush Township Police Department said.
During a meeting last month, the Rush Township supervisors decided to ask the PennDOT District 5 office, Allentown, to evaluate the intersection to see if there's a need for the left-turn signal. Vice Chairman Robert Leibensperger spearheaded that action in response to complaints from numerous citizens.
"I contacted PennDOT and we had a lengthy conversation about the issue," he said. "There's a lot of truck traffic headed east on 54 from 309."
Ron Getter of Middleport and David Argott of Lansford are truck drivers who work for Eagle Transport Group, Weatherly, which has a dispatch office and repair garage on SR309 in Hometown.
"If I'm headed that way I often have to sit through three light cycles to make that turn," Getter said. "If you're coming west on 54, and want to head south on 309, that can be worse."
Frederick agreed. He said a fix for the intersection would be left-turn arrows for motorists coming east or west on Route 54 to Route 309, as well as left-turn arrows for motorists headed north or south on 309, and turning onto 54.
"The cycle could start with left-turn arrows on for 10, 15 seconds for each main road, 54 and 309, and then there could be greens for the motorists headed straight," Frederick theorized. "When Kovatch (KME, Nesquehoning) lets out in the afternoon, Route 54 is backed up for four blocks with drivers trying to turn south on 309 that's frustrating for drivers but it's also a safety issue."
Frederick said that a more pressing safety concern is the Route 309 and Tidewood Road intersection, which is further north. Tidewood Road is an entrance to the TIDE Industrial Park and Wal-Mart. At that intersection, motorists coming south on Route 309 have a left-turn arrow to turn onto Tidewood Road.
"That green arrow turns off at the same time the light turns green for vehicles northbound on 309," Frederick pointed out. "But when the green arrow turns off, it doesn't turn red, it turns to a green light.
"Many drivers don't realize that the light has turned green for drivers headed north," he continued. "In the last two weeks, we've had two accidents there; in the last three or four years, we've had about 15 serious accidents at that intersection."
Adding to the 309 problems is a "buffer lane" which begins near the exit from Turkey Hill Minit Market and ends near the entrance to Mauch Chunk Trust Company. The buffer lane is enclosed on both sides by a solid yellow line, which means that motorists coming south on Route 309 shouldn't enter it, Fredericks explained.
"The only way to legally use the buffer lane is when headed north on Route 309, it can be used to make a left turn," Frederick said. "But people are always using it to make lefts when they're coming south, and we (the Rush Township police force) write a lot of tickets for that."
Nancy Pilla, who owns Nancy's Fresh Cut Market Inc. in Hometown, said that there are many traffic problems in the area.
"They definitely need a left-turn signal at that intersection," Pilla said. "Between that intersection and the buffer lane, there's a lot of confusion out there."
"People have learned to do whatever they need to do to just avoid going through that intersection (routes 309 and 54)," she added. "They're cutting around it on small roads and adding traffic to residential areas.
"A left-turn signal would mean less chaos out there," Pilla said. "But they really need to totally redo the intersection."