Consistently dangerous

Editor’s note: Danger Zones is an occasional Mirror series on the most dangerous roads in our region.

FRANKSTOWN – Within the next month, there will be an accident at the Frankstown Road-Route 22 intersection.

At least, that’s been the experience of Old Route 22 resident Alan Eneger, whose home sits a stone’s throw away from the busy intersection. He said his family moved there when he was 1 year old.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” he said, and estimates that as many as two serious crashes a year occur near his home.

Mapping the crashes

The Frankstown Road-Route 22 intersection forms a T-shape.

The two lanes exiting Frankstown Road end with stop signs, but Eneger said people rarely obey them.

While observing traffic in his front yard on a hot, summer day last week, Eneger squinted in the sunlight, motioning at a blue sedan as it rolled through a stop sign before accelerating onto Route 22 toward Hollidaysburg.

“If you sit here long enough, you’ll see,” he said, counting several more cars in succession whose drivers committed a rolling stop.

PennDOT spokeswoman Pam Kane said a majority of crashes at the intersection are angle crashes, the result of drivers not coming to a full stop at the stop signs.

Eneger said most accidents involve two cars, but he’s seen all manner of wrecks.

“I watched the whole roof of a truck get ripped off by a semi,” he said, and once he added – moving to spot to the right of his front door – an accident pushed a large truck off the road and through the guardrail. It came to rest in the same spot on which he stood.

Luckily it didn’t hit the house, he said, laughing, but it was quite a sight to see right outside his front door.

“I’ve seen some pretty good, doozy [wrecks],” he said.

No quick fix

Kane said although the intersection is listed among the top 25 areas in the district in need of repairs, lack of funding might delay a project indefinitely.

“[The intersection’s] not even thought about until 2016,” she said, “and all of that is dependent on transportation funding.”

It’s possible the project might not be scheduled until 2019 or later, she said.

Planned intersection improvements have been rolled into a larger, $7.3 million project, the largest and most expensive portion of which is a realignment of nearby Reservoir Road bridge – which stands less than 300 feet west of the intersection – with Frankstown Road.

That would create a four-way intersection and allow PennDOT to install traffic signals there, she said.

The system also would be integrated to include a speed-limit warning light that flashes when drivers on Route 22 coming from Geeseytown travel above 35 mph speed limit and tells them to slow down.

Kane said PennDOT also would create a center turning lane at the intersection on Route 22, which would direct traffic turning left onto Reservoir Road from Route 22 West, and traffic turning left onto Frankstown Road from Route 22 East.

It would alleviate the problem of some of the angle crashes that have occurred there, she said.

The bridge realignment would be the most expensive part of the project, but Kane said with “the priority [being] to reduce crashes,” moving the bridge to create a four-way intersection is the only feasible way to install a traffic light.

Another portion of project would replace a retaining wall along the southern side of Route 22 near Geeseytown Cemetery, she said.

Kane said the project would be “very beneficial to travelers once it’s done,” but without funding from a transportation bill, PennDOT “can’t really look at major projects like this for some time.”

No fatals

Luckily, there hasn’t been a fatal crash at or near the intersection in at least five years, according to Trooper Jeff Petucci, a Pennsylvania State Police at Hollidaysburg spokesman.

He also noted that driver error, not road design, is to blame for most accidents.

“It’s properly signed,” he said, “and if the signs are adhered to, it would be just like any other intersection.”

While there may have been no loss of human life, Eneger said several of his beloved dogs have been killed since he’s lived there.

The most recent casualty was a black German shepherd named Mista, who Eneger said wandered off one night when Eneger ducked back into his house to grab a coat.

He began searching the neighborhood, but within a few hours, he got a call from state police asking whether he owned a dog that matched Mista’s description.

“I said, ‘Yeah, he’s mine. Where is he and what has he been up to?'” he said, a half smile playing on his face as he reached down to pet his current dog, another black German shepherd named Buddy.

But the officer was calling to give him bad news – Mista had been hit and killed by a car near the intersection.

A continuing concern

Frankstown resident Mandy Nadolsky of Mill Road said with three children, all ages 10 and younger, the Route 22/Frankstown Road intersection is a constant worry, and she usually avoids it, especially when her children are traveling with her.

She said she instead will traverse Frankstown Mountain to get where she needs to go or uses Old Route 22, which empties out several hundred feet west of the intersection, when heading toward Hollidaysburg.

“Big trucks come down 22,” she said. “They fly.”

Sometimes she looks out from her porch to gauge the traffic, to see whether it’s worth the risk of using the intersection, she said, and if she sees a line of cars, she might choose to wait.

But for Eneger, the noise and occasional commotion from crashes becomes a part of life.

“I usually go out and direct traffic” when he sees or hears an accident, he said.

It’s caused some inconveniences and heartache, but Eneger said no matter what the traffic situation is, he can’t imagine leaving his childhood home after 42 years.

“I grew up in this house,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.