Q: I am a commuter on Broadway to Cetronia Road to Tilghman Street in South Whitehall Township. With only a day's notice, road-closure and detour signs appeared on Broadway at the Parkway Road intersection, indicating Broadway was closed through to Cetronia Road. Please advise the estimated duration of the closure, its purpose, and the reason more advance notice wasn't given. It appears that officials did not take into consideration the inconvenience, traffic backups and aggravation caused to the general public.
— Joseph Marrongelle, Allentown
Q: Due to construction of the new Cetronia Ambulance Corps headquarters, normally heavy traffic near the building site has become unbearable, even at 10 in the morning. Signage warning motorists of the road closure at Broadway and Cetronia Road is non-existent until you are ready to turn right onto Broadway, which then forces turn-lane motorists to cut in front of traffic in the through lane. I could find no information as to how long this situation will exist. Obviously the work is for a good reason, but it would help in route planning if we knew how long Broadway will be closed.
— Noreen Clark, Upper Macungie Township
A: South Whitehall Township Manager Jon Hammer said Broadway is expected to be closed for about two weeks, which means we probably have another week to go, fellow warriors. When I visited Wednesday, gaping holes in the road surface near the Route 309 overpass revealed sizable new stormwater and/or sewer lines being installed. When that's done and the surface is replaced, the road will reopen.
"I hate to put deadlines on things; you never know with the weather" and other possible potholes, Hammer cautioned. But two weeks, or even three max, shouldn't be too rough a road.
Broadway is a township road, so a township permit, and not a PennDOT Highway Occupancy Permit, was required for the work. However, developers and contractors still should abide by the federal and state signage regulations and guidelines to help ensure safety as much as possible.
In this case, according to PennDOT officials, the array of signs appears to meet basic standards.
PennDOT's regional work-zone traffic manager, Earl Kichline, said he happens to have driven the Broadway route, and he's noticed no obvious deficiencies. "I think the signing is pretty good," he said.
I'm not sure if he's come northbound on Cetronia Road approaching Broadway, but I think an advance sign or two on northbound Cetronia would be helpful. The barricades on Broadway seem to come up quickly, though the portion of Broadway from there to the Route 309 overpass is open to provide access to businesses and a few homes there. It's the section of Broadway between the overpass and Parkway Road that's totally closed. A sign or two on southbound Parkway Road might be nice, too, judging by the four motorists I saw go straight across Broadway into the soccer complex at Cedar Creek Parkway West within about 20 minutes, making U-turns after seeing the "no outlet ahead" sign, one guy grousing loudly.
Hammer said that as of late last week, the township had received only one complaint about the situation, regarding the traffic backups generally that have resulted from the closure, and not the signage specifically.
Three or so days' warning certainly would be preferable to the "road closed tomorrow" treatment, Joseph. But Kichline said advance warning in terms of time, though generally provided, is as a courtesy, and not mandated by rule or regulation.
PennDOT officials ask contractors to give at least three days' notice for road closures, so that officials can get the word out in the form of news releases and/or email alerts. In the case of Broadway, such information was not provided because no state road was involved. The Morning Call offers those services as well, through the "construction" page at mcall.com (mcall.com/news/traffic/construction/), and motorists can sign up for weekly traffic-related email alerts. The "Your Commute" column in the print version of the paper on Sundays offers a glimpse of major road work scheduled for that week, though space on that road surface is limited.
In the case of larger state roads or highways, PennDOT tries to provide notice of 10 to 14 days before road closures or lane restrictions, spokesman Ron Young said. For example, when PennDOT hires private contractors for road work, often the contract language specifies that Young's office be notified two weeks before work begins so the information can be steered to the motoring public, he said.
Though permanent overhead electronic message boards most often are used to identify immediate problems — a traffic accident ahead, and a specified detour route, for example — they can be used to provide advance warning of coming road work restrictions as well, said Don Bouch, regional traffic operations manager.
Regulations on advance distance warnings, language, sign size and coloring and the like do apply, but again, Kichline said the Broadway array appears to meet them. The requirements can changed based on conditions — urban versus rural roads, for example, Kichline said.
I use the Broadway route fairly regularly, and of course had noticed the barricades, though normally I turn right onto Parkway from westbound Broadway, so the closure hadn't affected me directly since it arrived last Monday or Tuesday. Interestingly, I had not noticed the two advance warning signs on westbound Broadway approaching Parkway, though I drove that route at least three times before specifically investigating these issues. While on the job as the Road Warrior, I discovered that sure enough, there they are: a large, reflective orange placard, "Detour 1,500 feet," and another 1,000 feet in advance.
Once you see them, they're hard to miss. Yet I missed them repeatedly, driving home from work, my eyes apparently stuck on cruise control. The experience reminded me of the matter I investigated in December, in which several motorists opined that more advance warning (in terms of distance) was needed approaching the Route 22 work zone at MacArthur Road. "Where are the signs?" one man lamented.
When I drove the highway in Warrior mode, marking the sign locations aloud for my voice recorder, at one point I said, "Where are they not?" I counted a dozen placards on the 2-mile stretch approaching the work zone in each direction, including one electronic message board each way. Twenty-four in all.
The signs apparently hadn't registered with the folks who emailed, as happened to me with the Broadway warnings. PennDOT can only post them for us; they can't force us to notice, nor would we want them to try. Or, to twist familiar saying, you can drive a Mustang to the pump, but you can't make him fill his tank.
Road Warrior appears Mondays and Fridays, and the Warrior blogs at mcall.com. Email questions about roadways, traffic and transportation, with your name and the municipality where you live, to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Road Warrior, Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105-1260.