Homer City Borough council voted in favor of removing a traffic signal at Main Street and Old Route 56, despite concerns addressed by some members Tuesday.
In May, council tentatively decided to remove the traffic signal based on the recommendation of the Southwest PA Commission, which had performed a traffic signal study. The signal would be replaced by four stop signs.
“Recommendation was that the signal was no longer warranted was based on the traffic volume,” said Domenic D’Andrea, a representative from the commission who had been asked by council to be present for questions regarding the replacement of the traffic signal. “Per the agreement we have with Homer City Borough,” D’Andrea said, signed in January of last year, “we’re here to assist you with the results of that study — removal of the signal.”
The borough had applied to the regional signal program through the commission’s SINC-UP effort for assistance on the condition that there would be an unbiased evaluation, including pedestrian and vehicle moving counts. The council also had signed an agreement in January stating that that the borough would make the changes recommended by the program, which in this case, are to remove the traffic signal.
“We had an agreement with the borough that said that we would do the study and the results of the study would be abided by,” D’Andrea said.
Traffic volume, according to D’Andrea, was determined by vehicle and pedestrian moving counts. Counts were also taken on what D’Andrea called the “worst-case day,” Friday, and the signal still did not meet any of the warrants for demand. These tests were performed during eight-hour increments, and even the peak hour, which D’Andrea called the “easiest one to meet,” warrant for usage was not met.
Homer City Mayor Ken Cecconi addressed his concern that traffic will pick up in the two alleys that run parallel to Route 119.
“We might pull the wrecks and problems off of those streets and move them to the alleys,” Cecconi said.
D’Andrea assured Cecconi that, if anything, people are more inclined to avoid red lights than they are stop signs, and that traffic volume in the alleys should not change.
Council member Bernice Harris noted that in her 63 years as a Homer City resident, she’s “hardly seen any accidents there,” indicating that if the intersection is changed to a four-way stop, the volume of traffic accidents could increase.
Jennifer Jaworski, another council member, had said during May’s meeting that the light had been installed at the intersection in the 1960s.
“I understand the concerns I’m hearing,” D’Andrea said. “The study is what it is. It’s factual, and I understand that some of you aren’t thrilled with the results, but they are what they are.”
D’Andrea told the council that a request for assistance would be needed in writing by next month.
Council member Joseph Iezzi eventually made the motion to approve the request for assistance, “because it’s a losing battle anyhow.”
The replacement of the signal to a four-way stop would be funded 80 percent federally and Homer City Borough would be held responsible for the remaining 20 percent of the cost.
Borough Council President Richard Morris cast the lone vote against the decision to make the request for assistance, though his vote was outnumbered by council.
“I personally cannot see why the signal is going to be removed by PennDOT in their infinite wisdom,” Morris said. He also stated that he thinks that PennDOT and the Southwest PA Commission should be assisting the borough in its dilemmas, financially.
Changes to the intersection would begin in the fall, according to D’Andrea, and the signal would ultimately be taken out in the spring.
There will be a 90-day transition period before the complete removal of the sign. The signal will turn to a red, flashing light in every direction, indicating to motorists that they need to stop.
“If everything goes without a hitch, then we continue to remove the signal,” said D’Andrea.
If there is an issue, such as an increased number of traffic accidents, there is a possibility that the signal will end up staying at the intersection.
In the long run, D’Andrea said, this change will end up saving the borough a significant amount of money in up-keep costs.
Also Tuesday, Mayor Cecconi reported that Anthony Jellison will begin his promoted position of sergeant of police on Aug. 1. Jellison has been a part-time officer for the borough for “quite a few years,” Cecconi said.
Jellison will be filling a full-time vacancy on the police force that’s been in effect since an officer’s retirement in January.
In addition, Nick Tartalone, a recently hired police officer, will finish his training this week and begin his position Saturday.
With the addition of Tartalone, Homer City Borough has employed seven part-time officers, and Police Chief Louis Sacco is the only full-time employee. When Jellison begins his new position in August, he will be the second full-time officer in the borough.
In addition, council approved a resolution for the Homer Center Historical Society for a small games and chance license for its duck race held every year.
The council also announced that as of Tuesday, the Homer-Center Parks and Recreation pool is open.
This story edited at 1 p.m. June 5 to correct the name of police Chief Louis Sacco.