The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 31, 2013

Lane shifts and center buffer on Veterans Memorial Bridge cost $19,000

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — PennDOT’s completed safety improvements on the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, which added an extra two-foot buffer space between lanes, cost the state agency $19,000.

That equates to one one-hundredth of a second’s distance for a car travelling at 45 mph.

The new buffer was chosen as a “low-cost safety improvement project,” aimed at “making (traffic patterns) more forgiving of driver error by reducing the potential for crossover or head-on crashes,” said PennDOT Region 3 spokesman Rick Mason.

“The median created on the bridge was done with line painting,” Mason said.

Any further safety improvements to the bridge will be decided once officials look at how the improvements are affecting traffic patterns, Mason said. PennDOT did examine other options before deciding on the buffer zone, Mason said.

Previously, the nearly 3,000-foot long Veterans Memorial had 12-and 11-foot-wide lanes for eastbound and westbound traffic. In early July, PennDOT contractor Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. created four 11-foot-wide lanes, two in each direction, with the 2-foot median in the center, as part of other road surface improvements in the region, Mason said.

There are no other bridges in the region with four lanes of opposing traffic with no barrier in between, according to district bridge engineer Lloyd Ayres. However, Mason said other parts of the state may have similar traffic patterns.

There have been nine crashes on the bridge or its approaches on either side of the Susquehanna River since 2010, Mason said.

“Most of the crashes occurred on the ramps leading to the bridge,” he said when improvement started.

Kirk Mahaffey, 22, and his 3-year old son, Mayson, both of Northumberland, died following a head-on collision on the bridge last July.

Charges in the case were filed earlier this month. Brian Glass, 25, of Port Trevorton, pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide and related charges, which police filed after a nearly year-long investigation.