Safety concerns rise after Mortonville Bridge reopens

posted Thu, Apr 12, 2012

BY MICHAEL N. PRICE
mprice@dailylocal.com

Residents of a village at the border of three local townships are looking to local and state authorities to take action after expressing concerns Saturday that dangerous traffic conditions near the recently renovated Mortonville Bridge could lead to a fatal crash.

Several serious crashes have occurred near the four-way intersection of Strasburg, Laurel and Mortonville Roads after the bridge reopened, said residents

The bridge, which falls along Strasburg Road at the border of East Fallowfield, Newlin and West Bradford townships, reopened in July 2010 after a $2.1 million restoration project significantly widened the span.

Jeff Harper has owned what was once the Mortonville Hotel since 1986, a historic building just inside the border of East Fallowfield on the bridge’s eastern end. He said it is common for crashes to end up in his property’s front yard.

Harper said crashes have always been an issue there but their frequency has increased since the bridge’s reopening.

“I’ve owned this building since 1986, and the number of crashes since this bridge was put in here is at least double what it was,” Harper said.

Harper said that prior to the renovation the speed limit was posted at 35 mph for traffic approaching the bridge. In addition there was a 25 mph yellow caution sign advising traffic to reduce speed before crossing the bridge. Those signs were removed after the bridge was reopened, and the speed limit was increased to 45 mph.

Harper said the increased speed of traffic crossing the bridge, coupled with poor sight lines for vehicles entering Strasburg Road from Mortonville and Laurel Roads, has led to several serious collisions in recent years.

Harper said some of the recent crashes can be attributed to the absence of white lines painted on the road’s surface to instruct drivers to pull up further before entering the speedy traffic on Strasburg Road.

But Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials said their data contradicts that claim. The number of reportable crashes within 300 feet of either end of the bridge has decreased since the bridge’s reopening, they report,

From 2007 to the bridge’s closure in 2009, seven crashes were reported. After the bridge’s reopening in 2010 there has been only three, according to the transportation department.

Stephen DiDonato, who lives in a ground-floor apartment in Harper’s building, said he has personally experienced six crashes since moving there in February 2011, including one that totaled his vehicle while it was parked in the property’s roadside driveway.

“There have been four accidents that have wound up in the front yard since I’ve lived here,” DiDonato said, pointing to visible damage on a tree and porch post that occurred when a vehicle veered off the road in a recent crash.

DiDonato said the frequency of accidents has caused concerns for the safety of his family.

“I have a 6-year-old son, and that is my concern,” DiDonato said. “Having a 6-year-old son out here makes me really nervous. I don’t want to come out here and find somebody dead, and have my son out here and see a dead person.”

Harper and DiDonato said they hope the state will consider reposting speed caution signs and paint lines at the stop signs so drivers know how far to pull up before entering traffic.

PennDOT officials said speeding is an enforcement issue that falls to local police departments, not the transportation department. PennDOT officials said they had no recent correspondence with local police over problems with speeding near the bridge.

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