HONESDALE — A major change is coming on how traffic flows in the area of 4th and Main streets.
The secretary of the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has issued an order to change the status of the railroad crossings in the borough.
The crossings — which includes the one near the 4th and Main intersection — will now be listed as "exempt," meaning buses, trucks and other vehicles will no longer be required to stop at the tracks.
It should help alleviate the congestion which happens in that area when school is in session.
The change came at the request of Honesdale Borough and the Wayne Highlands School District.
Bob Jennings, chairman of the borough's safety committee, said he first discussed the matter with some bus drivers who said having to stop at the tracks was actually a dangerous situation.
"The buses having to stop, one by one, and open their door contribute to serious traffic congestion," said Jennings in a letter to the PUC. "Many bus drivers have brought this to my attention."
That letter was sent in February of this year along with a letter from Jeff Firmstone, business manager of the Wayne Highlands School District.
In his letter, Firmstone expressed "support" from the school district to make the 4th Street railroad crossing exempt from traffic laws which normally apply.
Firmstone said the district has four schools "worth of traffic that must navigate the 4th Street railroad crossing."
He said more than 2,250 students and 300 employees travel to the Honesdale campuses on a daily basis. He said there are 50 buses and vans "not mention hundreds of parent drop-offs and pick-ups" twice a day when school is in session.
"Exemption of this extremely limited use railroad crossing from stopping laws would help eliminate congestion, reduce air pollution and reduce fuel consumption ...," said the letter.
Those letters, in turn, led to an April meeting between officials from the PUC, the borough and school district. A document from the PUC said representatives from the Stourbridge Railroad Company and Wayne County were invited, as well, but nobody attended.
One of the biggest factors involved in the decision is the fact the excursion train in Honesdale no longer operates. Rail excursions ceased last year and there have been none this year.
"Currently, there is no traffic on the subject line," said a letter from the PUC which outlined the decision to create the exempt status for the crossings. That letter was signed by Rosemary Chiavetta, secretary of the PUC, a cabinet level position in the Corbett administration.
The order was dated June 6 of this year and Jennings said it was his understanding new signs will be installed in the very near future, possibly as early as next week.
Page 2 of 2 - The order impacts all three crossings in the borough. That includes 4th Street, Chapel Street and Brown Street. The 4th Street crossing is by far the most heavily traveled.
In the order, PennDOT is responsible for installing "exempt" signs on the crossbuck assembly currently at the crossing. They will also have to install advance warning signs on Route 191 leading to the crossing.
On the other two crossings, the borough will be responsible for installing the exempt signs and advance warning signs.
Jennings said that not only will the bus traffic be able to move along quicker, but so will many trucks like fuel haulers and other which normally are required to stop at all railroad crossings.
"I think this will help the flow of traffic," said Jennings.
Another part of the order states that if the train does ever operate again, it will be up to the railroad company to provide manpower at the crossings.
It says a member of the train crew "equipped with a red flag during daylight hours and a lighted fusee during hours of darkness" will have to be present to stop traffic for the train to go through the crossings.