Asks PennDOT to revaluate traffic in borough

- A special meeting of the Honesdale Borough Council provided a decision that has been years in the making. A motion read by Council Member Juanita Pisano, it states: "Following a report from the Honesdale Borough Traffic Engineer, which includes a traffic study revealing a suspected 30 percent increase in motor vehicle accidents since the inception of one-way traffic in October 2009 and potentially limited emergency vehicle access and or response time, and because I believe that the existing traffic pattern is perilous to pedestrians and motorists alike, I move that the Honesdale Borough Council: "Formally request the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to initiate an immediate evaluation of existing one-way traffic in Honesdale; "Recommend to PennDOT a return of conventional two-way traffic patterns on Main Street and Church the sole and exclusive expense of PennDOT; "To take any and all preliminary action necessary to accomplish this conversion." The motion concluded with the authorization of Council President F.J. Monaghan "to transmit notice of this action to PennDOT immediately." This motion came after public input and the presentation of a traffic study conducted by Bogart Engineering. During the public comment section of the meeting, former council member Marty Hedgelon offered his recount of events from the time the one-way conversion occurred. "I was on council when the bridge project was discussed," he said. Hedgelon said that council in 2006 was presented with three plans to consider, with PennDOT stipulating "no changes can be made to them." He said since the one-way conversion "safety has always been an issue." Hedgelon added that the main sticking point for that council was the construction of the Church Street Bridge. "We wanted the bridge," he said. "We could take the options or no bridge." Council member Jim Brennan concurred with Hedgelon's statements, saying that that is also what he remembers. "If we didn't go for it, the bridge wouldn't be funded," he said. Cheryl Celesky of Honesdale compared the current situation on Main Street to a gauntlet. "I think what we have is a gauntlet on Main Street," she said. "You have vehicles edging in, car doors opening and cars coming in from side streets." She expressed to council that she doesn't "see how this makes traffic any safer. It is not safer for pedestrians." She continued to say she also feels the one-way traffic is not helping the businesses on Main Street. "It is not helping people look and shop on Main Street." Bill McAllister spoke and said he "has been a proponent for the two-way conversion since the beginning." He echoed that safety has always been a concern and that "it is PennDOT's responsibility. They should assume the responsibility to put it back." Member of the One-Way Traffic Complaint Committee Bob Shepstone also recalled issues from the one-way inception. "There are many good reasons to oppose," the one-way streets, he said. "When you look at the safety factor, they created a system to move cars," Shepstone said. "The system is not good at moving people." Shepstone said the conversion "was forced on us" and that the community "got trapped into this." He urged council to "not run scared for funding. Don't be trapped by the money trap." Stan Pratt also spoke on how the conversion has affected emergency response vehicles. He said a major concern for him is pedestrian safety. "There was especially concern with the state putting the crosswalks on the wrong side," he said. Pratt said when council approached PennDOT to have them fixed, they were told "to fix it at the expense of the borough." Pratt said emergency vehicles trying to respond having to go through Main or Church Streets can be challenging. With cars changing lanes, Pratt says "it adds a tremendous amount of risk for the driver and the pedestrian." The one-way traffic "sometimes causes back-up and a delay" in response times. Traffic study results Mary Bogart of Bogart Engineering is the borough's traffic engineer. She was asked to conduct a traffic study between 2007 and the end of 2012. Bogart began her presentation by providing the background of the issue. "In Dec. 2006, a motion passed to send a letter to PennDOT" regarding the traffic pattern, she said. She said that in Jan. 2007, the council sent a letter to PennDOT requesting a meeting to discuss the issues with the project. "There was no reply from PennDOT," Bogart said. In March of 2007, after originally rejecting the plan, PennDOT presented council with three options. The first was to "squash the project completely." The second option was to accept the project "as-is." The third option was to reject the project and have "PennDOT redesign" it "with no time frame of completion." Council chose to accept the project as-is with a four-two vote. The Church Street bridge was opened in Oct. 2009. "In January 2013, public opinion was split," on whether or not the one-way conversion was a good thing. In July 2013, council authorized Bogart Engineering to do a traffic study on accidents in the borough from 2007 to the end of 2012. "The crash data received is confidential from PennDOT," she said. Bogart said the study found that "there is an increase in crashes by 30 percent," with the one-way streets. She also said the crashes that are occurring are the two most common types and are also "the most prevalent on two-way streets." Council member Scott Smith asked Bogart to disclose the "number of crashes we are dealing with." Bogart declined saying that she "won't publicly disclose the number," but that the increase the numbers show "is significant."