Kutztown School Board and parents expressed concerns for student safety regarding the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s plan to relocate Zettlemoyer Road within 50 feet of the Greenwich Elementary School.
Parents of children attending Greenwich Elementary, as well as concerned faculty and community members, attended Monday’s School Board meeting to hear what the school board members had to say.
“My kids go to Greenwich and my wife and I are concerned on how this road is set up. They’re telling us that all the big trucks that go to the restaurant are going to be accessing right past the school,” said parent Dan Batz. “So what happens when one’s coming out through and he’s got a failure or the guy’s not paying attention or something unforeseen happens? How far is it set back from the school? What safety measures are in place? That’s what I’m here to find out.”
“We’ve been talking about this for two years, public meetings,” said resident Earl Osterstock. “First, we were handed one of those roundabouts proposals at the end of this little country road which made absolutely no sense at all. So this, what you see here sketched, is the result of our township supervisors working PennDOT and getting public input and coming up with a better solution. The question is what is the school board going to try to push for?”
A slideshow presented by School Board Treasurer and District Business ManagerDavid J. Miller showed an aerial view of the proposed reconstruction.
“What’s going to happen is as federal money is used for highways, there are certain standards that have to be met and one is that no roads can enter or exit the highway within a certain number of feet of an interstate,” said Miller. “So Zettlemoyer Road will no longer be able to intersect 737 here of the entrance of the diner.”
Zettlemoyer Road will be curved around the back of the diner and down to a ninety-degree turn to the right within 50 feet of the Greenwich Elementary School and then out to 737. According to Miller, the turn is a couple of feet above the level of the school ground. PennDOT is planning on building that up about four feet more bringing the height to about eight feet total. With this elevation and angle, the school is concerned with trucks negotiating the turn as well as the noise. There will also be about eight feet of land cut from the front of the school property. Miller pointed out that the distance between where the trucks will be pulling out and where the school buses pull out will be about 250 feet.
According to School Board vice president Randy Burch, PennDOT considered moving the road further north from the school, but there were issues with Eminent Domain and excessive taking.
“What they need to do is get rid of the diner and take Zettlemoyer Road south of where it is currently located and pull it down across the diner parking lot,” said Cyndi Kerschner, Kerschner Trucking. “Another concern that you’re going to have is on Krumsville Road, on the north side cattycorner from the school, they’re looking at that as a proposed gas station and that isn’t exactly ideal for being across from a school either.”
Miller said they had an hour and a half meeting with PennDOT and Acquistion Services to brainstorm solutions involving the diner and the property between the diner and the school.
“They’re going ahead with this project,” said Miller.
Kerschner noted that PennDOT is taking a well-used gas station from the other side of 737 and questioned why the diner wasn’t being taken.
“In all the discussions that we’ve had with PennDOT, we don’t understand that. The thing that’s going with community needs is the convenience store and gas station and they’re letting that diner and that diner is a seed in a hotbed of activity at 3 and 4 in the morning,” said Kerschner.
Kutztown Superintendent Katherine D. Metrick said, “The position we’re in now is that we have to come up with an alternative solution that would work.”
One attendee asked if they couldn’t protest on the safety issue and Metrick responded by saying they are challenging it and even had an engineer look at the situation.
“We really are concerned for the safety of our children,” said Metrick. “If you picture a tanker trailer coming towards the school and missing that turn or slipping on the ice.”
Although the current plan does not have any kind of guide or safety rails, Burch said those measures still wouldn’t be enough to stop a truck from going off the road and into the school yard or into the school.
“The only thing that I’m aware of that would stop a tractor trailer truck from tipping over would be what’s called a high-wall system and that clearly is not in the PennDOT plan,” said Burch.
Burch added that the township has given its blessing to the plan. He encouraged residents to talk to their township supervisors or representatives. Contact information was provided for attendees.
Someone suggested bringing the turn down to the other side of the school which would mean relocating the playground, but that idea was met with strong negative feelings from other attendees.
For some attendees, PennDOT’s solution was a viable one as compared to a roundabout. They felt in the distance involved, the trucks wouldn’t be accelerating at high speeds and didn’t want to overstate the likelihood of a truck rolling. They also felt that this problem had been in discussion for years. They are disappointed that the situation is being argued all over again when it seemed like a solution had been resolved.
“Our plan moving forward is to continue looking for a solution and bring in an engineer to look at it, but we wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of the situation,” said Metrick. “If you’re going to have tractor trailers turning left and buses turning right, that scares me.”
One suggestion by School Board President Carl H. Ziegler was the possibility of the school acquiring some of the property between the house and the school in the school’s best interest and in alleviating some of the cost for PennDOT to reconsider moving the new route further up from the school. He felt maybe they could get PennDOT to relook and enter into negotiations.
“I think Mr. Ziegler’s idea is an interesting one that could avoid litigation for us so I would motion to ask the administration to explore that possibility of the suggestion Mr. Ziegler had and in addition that we authorize the administration to retain an engineer to look at this for us and give us some alternative options,” said Burch.
The motion was approved.
PennDOT was not present at this meeting.
Sean Brown, PennDOT safety press officer, told The Patriot on Tuesday that this was a project in design over several years and had met with local officials many times including township officials, school district officials, and until recently this had been agreeable to all parties; the township was in favor; the school district was in favor. He said that all the local folks had thought that this was the optimal plan, optimal place, to relocate Zettlemoyer Road. He also said there were many public meetings regarding the situation.
“Our designers looked at all the options and everything we can do. We met with the local concerned citizens, local officials and everyone seemed agreeable to this one design process. At this point in the process, that’s going to be where our design is and we are going to continue with that design to have that road relocated to the position there,” said Brown.
Brown added that their design folks would listen to new ideas by the current management team of the school district, the officials.
“Part of this design process is to always reach in to local officials and getting their input and that’s how we move forward on these projects. That’s why we have public meetings and meet with them to route design. Absolutely we would meet with these folks again and talk about these things,” said Brown.