PennDOT: ‘This is what we’re told to follow’

PennDOT, property owners discuss crosswalk devices

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Friday, representatives from PennDOT District 10 met with a group of concerned citizens regarding the placement of pedestrian crosswalk sign activation buttons.

Joe Ferrara, who, along with his wife, Joan VanDyke, owns the building at the corner of East Mahoning and South Findley streets, has spoken at several Punxsutawney Borough Council meetings about his unhappiness with the placement of the walk and don’t-walk activation buttons.

He said three of the crosswalk activation buttons have already been struck by trucks at various times in the last few weeks, especially the one located at the corner of South Gilpin and West Mahoning streets.

Craig Chelednik, design services engineer/ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) coordinator, said PennDOT must follow road design standards when constructing a traffic signal enhancement project, and that he and other PennDOT personnel recently reviewed all the poles, and they meet those standards.

“All of the criteria as to where the activation buttons are located is based on ADA guidelines,” he said. Any violations of ADA are reported to the ADA advocate, if the measurements don’t meet the standards.

The buttons must be no more than 42 inches above the ground, with a 10-inch lateral reach from the landing area, Chelednik said. The push buttons can be only so far away from the landing area where the ramp is located.

Chelednik said the minimum width of the sidewalk path is four feet.
“The ADA advocate recently filed a complaint with us regarding the crosswalk signals that were installed in Kittanning,” Chelednik said.

“After meeting with him, we realized there were some things that could have been done a little bit better.”

“We don’t make these guidelines up; this is what we’re told to follow,” he said. “That’s why we did it the way we did it.”

Ferrara asked if PennDOT’s standards are different than those of the Federal Highway Administration Chapters Four, Six and Eight, about which he said, “There is some flexibility in locating these, according to the Federal Highway Administration guidebook. There is some latitude that the pole and button can be placed up to five feet away from the crosswalk.

“Why do they have to be placed in the middle of the sidewalk?” Ferrara said, adding that the Federal Highway Administration said in its regulations the pedestrian path on the sidewalk should remain clear.

Referring to the location struck in recent weeks, Chelednik said the buttons and poles could be moved if they are continually struck.

“If it turns out that a particular activation button is being struck all the time and isn’t meeting the standard, then it can be moved,” he said.
State Rep. Sam Smith, who also attended the meeting, asked if there would be a designated crosswalk near the Hampton

Avenue/East Mahoning Street intersection. PennDOT Project Manager Kirby Starr said there would be a crosswalk at that intersection once the project is complete.

Starr also said that there is some capability to move the pedestrian activation button at the South Gilpin Street intersection that was struck, possibly onto the mast arm.

David Tomaswick, PE, said PennDOT would be happy to meet with any property owner regarding the placement of the crosswalk activation buttons, possibly to make the sidewalk pathway wider than the four-foot minimum.

Chelednik said an enhancement of the pedestrian crossings occurs only when a traffic signal enhancement takes place.

“If we were just paving the street, we would’ve only had to upgrade the curb ramps,” he said. “The pedestrian crosswalk activation buttons would not be required.”

Starr said with a traffic signal enhancement, everything has to be done.
Tomaswick said it’s possible to move the activation buttons several inches — not feet — at some of the locations.

Starr suggested that property owners contact his office so a representative can examine their activation buttons to see if relocation is possible. Call Starr at 814-618-5451, or leave a message.

Tomaswick said that in the future, PennDOT would try to do a better job of explaining exactly where the activation buttons and other traffic control devices would be located.

Also in attendance were Mark Adams, representing state Sen. Joe Scarnati; council President Larry Chenoga and council members Michelle Lorenzo and Eric Story; and members of the Chamber of Commerce and downtown property owners.