FRANKLIN -- The township supervisors are having second thoughts about plans to install traffic lights at a treacherous corner given the effectiveness of stop signs installed two years ago.
Routes 896 and 841 cross each other at an area that has particularly bad lines of sight due to inclines, especially the hill to the south on 896.
Until recently, there were two-way stop signs applying to drivers on Route 841, but not on Route 896. Frequent accidents occurred, because even if the 841 traffic stopped before proceeding, the drivers could not see a sufficient distance on Route 896 to avoid oncoming traffic -- nor could the approaching 841 cars see them until the last seconds.
Inevitably, there were crashes, some of them serious.
Three years ago a particularly horrendous collision caused traumatic neurological and physical injuries to high school student Corey Beattie. She barely escaped with her life, is still suffering the effects and is undergoing daily therapy just to regain basic skills.
That prompted an outcry for more safety measures, and stop signs on all corners were installed.
“They’ve been incredibly effective, only two or three reportable accidents since the installation,” Supervisors Chairman John Auerbach said.
As time went by, however, residents and public officials pushed for more safety measures, and the township obtained a state grant for $185,000 to install red lights.
Having an additional $50,000 on hand to supplement the grant, the township is in a financial position to go ahead with the project, but Auerbach said he has some questions.
Given the improved safety with the four-way stop, he said, “Now the question is, what about the red light?”
There are several issues that he said should be worked out.
The first is the line of sight for cars coming from the south on Route 896. He said they will be coming over a hill and will not be able to see oncoming cars waiting to turn left onto Route 841 until the last seconds.
With the stop signs and warnings in place, those cars were prepared to stop. But if they had a green light, they might be less likely to slow down or avoid turning traffic.
The second issue revolves around a Route 896 project that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has planned the will level the hill to some extent, giving it a kind of “flat top.”
Auerbach said it will be an extensive project that will be frustrating to drivers while it is going on.
As if that were not complicated enough, the grading operation will involve more than just leveling the hill on the road; the adjacent land must be graded as well.
That creates another situation, because there is a historical old blacksmith shop along that stretch of highway that would be affected by the construction.
Auerbach said there are some people in the township that want to stick with the stop signs, while others want to proceed with the red lights.
One of those who has a stake in the ultimate decision is Marie Beattie, Corey’s mother.
She said she is concerned first and foremost about the safety at the corner and is frustrated that it took the years and many injuries since 1992 for anything to be done at all.
At one point she said she had a petition circulating asking for the light, but now she wants to hear more facts about the future of the corner.
She is adamant that people not get into a serious controversy, but she also said the information is not complete enough to make an informed decision about red light versus stop signs.
“We don’t’ have all the facts. It’s a little premature (to make a decision),” she said. “The good news is that we have the grant and their have only been two accidents.”
She added however, that minor collisions go unreported, and that information must come out.
“I know a light would enhance the flow of traffic,” she added.
Marie Beattie urged patience. “It was brought up in a meeting. All the facts are not in. People are jumping to conclusions,” she said.
Auerbach said the township supervisors will probably be looking at PennDOT’s designs for the hill in June and July.
He added that he has not made any decisions.
“I’m just trying to understand what the issues are,” he said.