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Death trap

Published December 14. 2010 05:00PM

The number of accidents on the Mansion House Hill since the weather has gotten colder have Mahoning Township officials very concerned.

Much of the stretch of highway between Jim Thorpe and Lehighton, especially the area that is flooding from poor drainage conditions, is actually in the township making it a local matter, but the highway is also a state route which places maintenance responsibilities squarely in PennDOT's lap.

The road was closed last Thursday for a short time until it could be treated due to hazardous conditions caused by the water failing to travel along the shoulder like it did previously. Instead the run-off is covering the highway and freezing in the frigid weather we have been having turning the highway into a makeshift luge.

It was closed last night after a young family's car spun out of control on the hazardous highway and careened into a wall. The emergency pulled the Police Chief Kenneth Barnes from the supervisors' meeting for almost an hour. When he returned he made it clear that something needs to be done to correct the problem.

This isn't a back road in the country. This is a heavily traveled highway both by commuters and visitors to this area. One has to wonder what PennDOT was thinking when it filled in a gutter with rock, which led to the drainage problem. It's symptomatic of the lack of common sense PennDOT seems to have when dealing with matters in Mahoning Township.

Claiming there were no issues, they consistently ignored the near fatalities along Route 443, regardless of supervisors' requests for reductions in the speed limit along the road. It took a fatality a few days before the traffic signal at Normal Square was to be dedicated for PennDOT to warn motorists about the new signal.

More recently, it took over one month, two editorials and at least three news stories from township meetings for PennDOT to act on closing Ashtown Road at 443 due to the inability to see from oversized barriers placed at their mandate and blocking sightlines onto the highway. The township was very lucky no one was fatally injured at that intersection.

PennDOT needs to act urgently to correct the issue on the Mansion House Hill, since we're now in the grips of winter. Black ice and freezing water run-off is not the fodder for bureaucratic bumbling.

While the township can deal with the usual red tape that accompanies almost anything in which PennDOT is involved, our hope is that the state agency realizes the seriousness of situation and its need to act now before someone dies on the dangerous stretch of highway.

David Wargo

Special to The TIMES NEWS

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