When the new Mead Avenue Bridge is completed in the next few years, a traffic signal will be installed at that intersection with Route 102 to help with traffic control. It would become the only traffic light in that area of the highway, where three intersections in a half-mile stretch offer easy access to bridges that cross French Creek.
A new signal is an aspect of the bridge’s construction that has some people wondering if traffic lights should be put at the other two intersections — Mercer Street and Spring Street.
Further complicating any new traffic plans, after the bridge is built, is that at least one turning opportunity onto Mead Avenue would be lost.
Motorists planning to enter Meadville from Vernon by crossing the new Mead Avenue Bridge will only be able to access from one way — from the northbound lane of Route 102 coming out of Kerrtown. There will be no left turn allowed for vehicles traveling south — coming from the area of Vernon Volunteer Fire Hall.
So, drivers wanting to turn left and cross French Creek would have to do so at Spring Street or Mercer Street along the same stretch of highway.
A new traffic signal is part of the engineering plan for the replacement bridge to be built near the site of the current structure, which will be “higher and wider” than the present bridge, officials said recently.
The Mead Avenue Bridge was closed on March 23, 2007, because of safety concerns.
Although Vernon Township supervisors have no authority regarding the bridge work, those officials had to either approve the state’s choice for the traffic signal, or be held responsible for the purchase of a different signal. Either way, once the signal is installed, Vernon Township will be responsible for maintaining it, according to township Manager David Stone at a recent meeting.
Stone said if supervisors didn’t approve the state’s traffic light, cost for another new traffic light would be between $100,000 and $150,000. The new state-financed signal provided by the state will include signage that traffic on Route 102 traveling south will not be allowed to turn left onto the bridge.
At their recent monthly meeting, supervisors agreed to let the state foot the bill.
What about other lights?
Stone said in a recent telephone interview there would be no need for traffic signals at the Mercer or Spring street intersections. Some motorists say those intersections can be trouble in heavy traffic, or even dangerous (in the case of Mercer Street). And the traffic has been heavier at both of these intersections in recent years with the Mead Avenue Bridge closed.
Stone said once the Mead Avenue Bridge is open, it should eliminate the traffic congestion at all three areas. “No, we will not consider it,” he said when asked if the township might want to add signals at those two other sites. He said the township agreed with the Mead Avenue signal because “it is part of the project. It’s warranted. I’m not sure the other intersections would be warranted,” he said.
Contacted by The Tribune on Friday, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials asked that Meadville City Manager Joe Chriest be called to respond to a reporter’s question if more traffic lights are needed along Route 102 in Vernon. Chriest is aware of the detailed guidelines in making adjustments at existing intersections because of experiences dealt with in Meadville in recent years.
Chriest agrees with Stone that traffic signals for the Mercer Street and Spring Street intersections would not be a wise choice.
Before PennDOT will consider adding a signal at an intersection, traffic surveys must be done that show the need, Chriest said. Spring Street currently would meet that need, but it is anticipated that once Mead Avenue Bridge is opened, traffic flow all along the route would decrease substantially, eliminating such a need, he said.
Traffic numbers at the Mercer Street intersection with Route 102 do not meet the criteria to warrant an additional signal, Chriest said.
Asked whether the township would consider taking vacant land along Route 102 — an area where a large building burned recently — to make the road wider near the Mercer Street intersection, Stone said no. He noted Route 102 is a state road and neither the township nor the county would have anything to do with widening that part of the highway.
Stone said for the township to seize the vacant land for any use would not be beneficial because there are too many obstacles — such as utility and telephone lines — that would have to be taken into consideration.