BY STACI WILSON
Planned roadway upgrades along Rt. 706 in Montrose have left some residents and business owners questioning the project’s purpose and unintended consequences.
Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation officials and design consultants from Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson presented the latest plans to the public Sept. 30 in the Montrose Borough Building.
The 3.5 mile project, now in its final design phase, will run eastwardly from the intersection of Rt. 706 with Owego St. to Tiffany Corners. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2011.
Many of the questions posed by the public had to do with the installation of a left turning lane at the Cherry St. intersection and between the two grocery store plazas in Bridgewater.
“Are you accommodating traffic that goes down Cherry or facilitating it?” asked one audience member.
Several attendees said the added lane at Cherry St. would create a permanent bypass for drivers who wished to avoid the town stop light.
Area residents told JMT project manager Doug Moyer that traffic often backs up from the traffic light east to Ridge St. No traffic light is slated to be installed at the Church and Cherry St. intersection.
PennDOT conducted a traffic study in the area in 2007. Montrose borough secretary Erin Jenner said traffic has increased through the borough since the study.
Greg Myer agreed. He said the Church/Cherry intersection might warrant a light if the traffic study was done today.
Myer also expressed concern about the left turn into the funeral home and the loss of available parking due to the expansion of the road.
PennDOT representative Kevin Miluszusky said the existing parking at the funeral home was with in PennDOT’s right-of-way and has been taken up by the addition of the left turn lane to Cherry.
Myer noted the widening project would have a “significant impact to the funeral home.”
Others in the crowd of over 50 attendees, questioned the possibility of adding a traffic signal near the grocery store plazas, east of Montrose.
Jack Lasher, United Fire Co. member asked, “Where do we go from here to get some of this project changed.”
Brian Baker, transportation director of Northern Tier Regional and Planning Commission, said, “We’re trying to make (Rt. 706) as safe as possible. Anytime you put in a traffic light, you increase driver frustration. It’s a big cause of accidents.”
Lasher said, “You think there is a lot of accidents now; wait until you put three lanes in.”
According to project plans, a left turning lane will be added from Turrell St., in Montrose to Old County Rd. in Bridgewater Twp.
Some proposed adding traffic signals at the grocery store entrances.
Baker and Moyer both told the group that traffic signals are not usually installed at private entrances.
The 706 plan, however, does call for the addition of a light at the intersection of routes 706, 29 and 1028 – near the golf course.
Eastbound vehicles on Rt. 706 will have free movement through that intersection.
Myer said he was concerned that a signal at that intersection would lead to an increase of traffic on Lake Ave. with drivers attempting to avoid the light.
The project is currently in the final design phase. PennDOT and the project designers said the suggestions will be considered before the improvement project is advertised to bid on early next year.