The state’s response to concerns about heavy truck traffic in Gettysburg is “not good news,” Charles Gable, borough manager, told the council during its meeting Monday.
In a letter dated Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) informed the borough “existing truck restriction signs may be removed shortly, pending available resources and work schedules.”
For activists hoping to address truck traffic in town, the letter means “you’re going to want to mobilize fairly quickly,” Gable said.
PennDOT’s response was “pretty arrogant,” said council member Patricia Lawson, who pointed to more than 300 signatures on an online petition titled “Haul-No! Gettysburg” at change.org and many other signatures gathered door-to-door.
Heavy trucks damage infrastructure and historic buildings, Lawson said. They also produce noise that reduces the quality of life for borough residents and visitors, Lawson said.
Lawson described owners of historic buildings sweeping up four to five inches of brick dust per year as the rumbling of trucks damages building foundations.
Monday’s letter from PennDOT District Traffic Engineer Jason Bewley was in response to a May 9 letter from the borough and a May 7 conference call involving the borough, PennDOT, and Adams County planning officials.
That letter and conference were in response to an April 10 letter from Bewley to the borough. In it, he wrote that PennDOT made a preliminary determination that “truck restrictions should be lifted” and existing regulatory signage “needs changed” in light of 2018 state legislation bringing Pennsylvania in line with the federal truck-width standard, which rose from 96 to 102 inches.
The borough’s May 9 letter, signed by Gable and Police Chief Robert Glenny, challenges assertions in PennDOT’s April 10 letter. The borough’s letter includes extensive citations of state law.
The borough’s letter argues that Gettysburg’s streets are not adequate to allow trucks to make turns without leaving their lanes and that 28 crashes involving tractor-trailers have occurred in the last four years, not including incidents of damage to curbs and traffic signals.
“The changes in the vehicle code do not prevent us from maintaining the restrictions currently in place,” the borough’s letter reads.
“We would submit that the current restrictions are most certainly warranted. PennDOT only need post them better,” the borough’s letter reads.
“Pedestrian safety remains our biggest concern and top priority,” and “removing current restrictions will only encourage more trucks to use U.S. 30 and other routes through Gettysburg and further burden Gettysburg residents who must bear the burden of the damages they cause,” the letter indicated.
The borough also sent its letter, along with a petition bearing 341 signatures, to a variety of local, state, and federal officials.
The borough’s letter cites state law “chapter and verse,” council member Wesley Heyser said. The dimensions of borough streets mean trucks cannot comply with the law, he said.
On the other hand, PennDOT’s May 13 letter claims information provided by the borough “does not contradict our preliminary findings” and does not “constitute warrants for restrictions.” PennDOT had requested “data to support the borough’s desire to change the existing traffic conditions and prohibit 102-inch wide trucks with trailers over 48 feet from operating” on routes passing through Gettysburg, the letter reads.
However, nothing prevents “the borough or PennDOT from making future physical or operational changes to improve the transportation network safety or mobility,” according to PennDOT’s May 13 letter.
Council member John Lawver said trucks 102 inches wide already pass through the borough constantly because that is the national standard. In fact, he said, the borough owns trucks that wide.
Lawver also recalled that the truck enforcement unit maintained by the borough years ago, which was equipped with scales, did not generate enough fine income to cover its costs.