Bridge detour, lane closure results in Friday morning traffic woes
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Traffic on Route 443 in the vicinity of the Route 209 intersection is backed up as far as the eye can see. By 8 a.m., the Route 443 traffic was backed up to the Ninth Street Bridge, which is about a mile.
Like an impending hurricane, motorists knew it was coming and hoped for the best.
Detours for the Thomas J. McCall Memorial Bridge construction project began this morning and it was not a smooth commute.
Traffic was backed up on every road leading to the bridge.
A traffic signal didn't work properly.
Motorists defied "no left turn" signs from Lehighton into Weissport, and from southbound Route 209 onto the Bridge Street hill in Lehighton.
Horns blared frequently as tempers flared.
In Franklin Township, at Main and Canal roads, police directing traffic called upon fire police to assist.
The detour made traffic one-way north across the McCall Bridge, from Lehighton toward Franklin Township. It also mandated one-way traffic on Weissport's Bridge Street bridge, bringing traffic from the community.
This meant motorists driving from Lehighton to Weissport had to detour across the bridge and then to Canal Road, and finally across railroad tracks into Weissport.
Prohibiting a left turn from Bridge Street in Lehighton obviously hurt business this morning at Dunkin' Donuts in Lehighton.
Even though a promotion today meant a free doughnut for anyone who purchased a medium coffee, the eatery had only two or three people in it at 7 a.m., normally a busy time.
Several drivers ignored the "no left turn" signs and pulled into the parking lot anyway.
Keith Glux of Nanticoke patronized the store, then was confused how he was going to get to the turnpike since a left-turn was very difficult. "Where do I go now?" he asked.
Sheryl Daily of Lehighton said it took nearly an hour just to get from her home to the opposite end of the McCall Bridge.
Several people complained that one of the main problems this morning was a light at the intersection of Route 209 and 443 that wasn't functioning.
"People sat at the light for 15 minutes without moving," said Tammy Christman of Effort. "Eventually people started moving, letting each other take a turn onto the bridge."
Leonard Steigerwalt of Walnutport said it took him 10 minutes to get through Weissport. Sitting in Dunkin' Donuts, he remarked, "I don't know how I'm going to get out the parking lot. I'm gridlocked."
He added, "There are going to be some people late for work and late school buses."
Tractor-trailers were having a difficult time with the detour, he said, having some problems with the turns into Weissport.
It was obvious that the turn from Weissport onto Bridge Street in Lehighton also was hard for big-rig drivers.
Steigerwalt felt there was inadequate signage in Weissport for the detour.
Art Meckes, who lives at Beltzville, was frustrated by the new trafficpatterns.
Meckes said, "They're going to have a problem. Nobody knows what's going on. They need someone directing traffic.
"I believe there are going to be a lot of accidents," he said.
First Street in Lehighton was backed up about a mile from the bridge to Coal Street at 7:15 a.m. By that time, traffic on Route 443 was backed up from the bridge to the Graverville light.
Many people expressed concerns about problems on Friday nights when traffic gets gridlocked even without a detour.
The detour is expected to last until September.