During the March 23 Allen Township Board of Supervisors meeting, PennDOT presented plans for their Howertown Road bridge replacement project. The project, which is not slated to begin until late 2022, would close one lane of bridge traffic and detour vehicles five miles around the construction site. This detour caused several safety concerns among both supervisors and residents.
During stage one of the project, the bridge’s northbound lane will be closed and traffic will be detoured from Route 329 to Kreidersville Road then to Howertown Road, adding about five miles to total travel time. PennDOT engineers said they considered adding a signal to the construction site to allow alternating traffic, but decided against this because additional signals would have to be added to the driveways of adjacent properties.
This detour, said Supervisor and Fire Chief Dale Hassler, is unacceptable.
“I think it is imperative to put a signal there to let our [volunteers] proceed north,” he said. “This affects the whole township.”
Hassler added that a previous, unannounced closure of the bridge caused many issues for volunteer firefighters, cutting them off from the north end of the township and adding to their response times, which could prove dangerous. Howertown Road, he said, is a main artery connecting the north and south ends of the township.
“All efforts should be made to put a light there,” he continued.
He added that PennDOT should have a meeting with first responders, engineers, the state police, and state representatives.
“I want to take this to the top.”
Resident Sean Leonard, of Howertown Road, also had concerns. Like Hassler, he too is a first responder. He asked that a signal not only be added, but that firefighters have the ability to control the light.
“We do not want the mess that happened last time…that was unacceptable,” he told PennDOT.
PennDOT agreed to hold a meeting in April regarding these concerns.
In total, they estimate construction will take about four to six months, concluding in spring or summer of 2023. If funding becomes available, PennDOT said they would like to start construction earlier. The new bridge will have 12 foot lanes and eight foot shoulders on each side, with no weight limit.
A privately owned and vacant structure adjacent to the bridge may cause some future concerns, as PennDOT would like to have the building demolished and the driveway relocated but they have not been in contact with the property owner.
“Do not put all your eggs in one basket,” warned Supervisor Gary Behler. “Have a contingency plan.”