HOLLIDAYSBURG - While looking to authorize bids for the Blair Street Streetscape Project's second phase, Borough Council members spun their wheels on a proposed traffic island for Mulberry Street.
Project engineer Gary Wisor of Stiffler, McGraw & Associates Inc. presented plans for the project, which included the installation of concrete curbing and a few light poles. It also called for the use of a concrete traffic-control device, called a pork chop, be used to redirect traffic on Mulberry Street, preventing drivers from turning onto Blair Street and directing them onto Front Street.
Borough Manager Mark Schroyer said reduced visibility from an apartment complex and steep ground sloping at Mulberry Street's west end made turning onto Blair Street dangerous.
The island would direct all traffic from Mulberry Street onto Front Street, and cars coming from Front Street would be unable to cut across a lane and turn onto Mulberry Street. Instead drivers would have to turn onto Blair Street.
Changing traffic patterns immediately concerned council members and Mayor Joseph Dodson, who said that Front Street receives heavy traffic at certain points in the day from delivery trucks taking supplies to Choice Cigarette Discount Outlet, New Specialty Lift Truck Inc. and the Allegheny Club.
Allegheny Street businesses Shan Nicole's and the American Legion also depend on Front Street for parking and making deliveries, he said.
Finance Director Jim Gehret suggested that traffic overflow could be addressed by making Front Street one way, so that traffic could not turn south but would be directed going away from Blair Street.
Hollidaysburg Police Department Sgt. Rodney Estep said he liked the idea of making Front Street one way, adding that people try to skip the stop sign at the end of Mulberry Street and run directly into oncoming traffic on Blair Street.
Many councilmen acknowledged that it's one of the borough's most dangerous intersections.
Public Works Director Rick Pope told council that no matter what they did, people would try to flout the rules. They may run Mulberry Street's stop sign now, he said, but even with the island in place, people will be trying to cut across to Blair Street.
"I guarantee it," he said.
The reason why there may not be many accidents, Schroyer said, is that borough residents already are aware that it's dangerous.
"It's safe because it's bad," he said, laughing. "People know it's bad."
Trying to fix it could end up making it worse, he said, which Wisor acknowledged.
All the concerns they addressed were valid ones, he said, and he may need to adjust the plans.
Schroyer also said creating a one-way street is a difficult process and usually ends up directing vehicles to other streets, causing traffic problems there.
There are a lot of elements to consider, he said, and council should seriously weigh its options before it decides.
Dodson suggested that council at least vote to try Wisor's plan and, should it not work, council could try something else.
But with so much funding tied up in the project overall, Schroyer said - more than $400,000 for its second phase - it wouldn't be as simple as ripping out the island.
The island itself is "a fairly sizeable investment," which Schroyer estimated to be between $15,000 and $20,000.
Between the bidding process and mid-August project start date, council members agreed to install a temporary island, made up of poles several inches thick mounted in a bracket, called candlesticks, to see whether the traffic change would be feasible.
They said they hope the temporary change will give them enough information to decide whether to install an island permanently and moved to authorize the bids with the traffic island as a project option.
"Let's see how many candlesticks get run over," Councilman Harold Burket said jokingly.
Schroyer said he plans to go out and survey the road with borough workers this week.
"Even though [this island will be] temporary, it has to be engineered properly," Schroyer said, and materials alone will cost between $1,500 and $2,000.
Council is slated to take action on the project bids next month, with the Blair Street Streetscape Project's second phase set to begin mid-August.
Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.