Travel Detours Will Get Added Scrutiny In W-B
WILKES-BARRE — Speeding and aggressive driving have always been problems on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard near the Cross Valley Expressway, but travel conditions are more hazardous now with traffic detours in place, and city police are responding.
City police Commander Joe Coffay said police have noticed a significant increase in traffic congestion in that area.
The stretch of roadway has been accommodating more traffic since the state Department of Transportation instituted a detour Aug. 20 for traffic that would normally head to and from the expressway via River Street.
Southbound expressway traffic from Kingston, Forty Fort and the Back Mountain that would normally take Exit 3 for Plains/Wilkes-Barre, turn south onto River Street and head into the city is now directed to take Exit 2 for Center City Wilkes-Barre and exit onto Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.
Traffic that normally heads toward the Back Mountain from Wilkes-Barre via the River Street on-ramp is now directed to the expressway on-ramp at Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.
Prior to the detour going into effect, PennDOT installed a temporary traffic light at the intersection of the end of the off-ramp with Wilkes-Barre Boulevard to help ease traffic congestion.
Four blocks of North River Street has been closed from just south of West Maple Street, near Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, to Courtright Avenue for a wastewater interceptor line replacement project by the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority. The project is about two weeks behind schedule and is expected to be completed by the end of October.
Although Coffay said he hasn’t seen an increase in accidents or traffic citations issued in that area since detours went into effect, city police have stepped up traffic enforcement throughout the city.
“We have issued an estimated 166 traffic citations for Aggressive Driving Sweeps between July and September of this year,” Coffay said. “The citations were issued citywide based on officers’ preference and estimated need.”
Coffay said additional sweeps are being planned and initiated, and the area around Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and the Cross-Valley Expressway “is an area that will be targeted.”
Asked about a police cruiser recently seen parked on a Wilkes-Barre Boulevard median in the area, Coffay said the presence was not in response to any increase in traffic problems or violations.
“That is a normal hot spot for traffic control and has been for years,” Coffay said.
Deputy Fire Chief Alan Klapat said there has been no significant increase in response times for ambulance and fire crews leaving the Hollenback Fire Station.
Klapat noted PennDOT installed pre-emptive traffic signalization devices on the temporary signals that will automatically turn traffic lights green for emergency vehicles when they approach with emergency lights activated.
Klapat said response records show no increase in fender benders or crashes in the area as a result of the increased congestion.
He said emergency crews responded to one minor crash on the Cross Valley exit ramp since the detour was put in place, and there were no reported crashes on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard in that time frame.
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