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Truck crash raise fears of 'what if?' when 11/15 work begins
By Duane Good, EDITOR

Rocks large enough to damage vehicles and pin occupants inside have fallen along Route 11/15 between Marysville and the George Wade Bridge, according to the state Department of Transportation. (Photo courtesy of PennDOT District 8-0

The tractor-trailer with live poultry caught fire, so there were jokes about roasted chicken.

A vehicle stuck in traffic after the crash was transporting hogs, so there were pulled pork jokes as well.

But amid all the humor in the wake of the July 20 incident on Route 22/322  some ‘‘what ifs’’ have been raised.

Specifically, ‘‘what if’’ a similar incident occurs next year, when part of  the only other north-south route in and out of Harrisburg is completely closed to traffic for three months.

District 8-0 of the state Department of Transportation has confirmed that Route 11/15 between Marysville Borough in Perry County and the George Wade Bridge in Cumberland County will be shut down to address an ongoing problem with falling rocks in that area of the highway.

PennDOT anticipates the  road segment being closed from Sunday, May 1 to Sunday, July 30. The objective is to finish the work prior to the annual Marysville Lions Club Carnival, which is held from late July to early August.

Contingency plans set. Route 22/322 – both the east-and west-bound lanes – is the designated detour route while the work is in progress, PennDOT stated.

District 8-0 acknowledges that the detour will add 27 miles – one way – to a regular trip in and out of the Capital Region for regular users of Routes 11/15. It also says that alternate routes may be available in the Marysville and East Pennsboro Twp. areas.

Should an incident disrupt traffic on Route 22/322 – as it did July 20 – the agency said the following contingencies would go into effect:

• If the anticipated disruption is three hours or less, traffic would be re-routed through Cumberland and Perry counties using various roads including Interstate 81, Wertzville Road and Routes 34 and 274 into Duncannon. (This detour would go into effect regardless of whether one, or both, lanes of Route 22/322 are closed.)

• If the anticipated disruption is more than three hours, one lane of Route 11/15 would be opened (after equipment  at the scene is cleared) to accommodate morning- or afternoon commuters, depending on time  of day. Non-commuters would be expected to take the alternate Cumberland-Perry detour route.

• In  case of a major disruption – one expected to last more than eight hours  – both lanes of Route 11/15 will be opened, again after equipment at the scene is cleared.

‘Safety is utmost.’’ While PennDOT acknowledges that there’s really no way around what it called ‘‘significant traffic disruptions throughout the region’’ while part of 11/15 is closed, the agency says the issue of falling rocks can’t be left alone.

There already have been incidents where rocks have fallen from the slope and have struck passing vehicles, pinning occupants inside, according to Fritzi Schreffler of District 8-0’s Public Information Office.

‘‘We have reviewed this plan from every angle and cannot come up with a way that does not compromise the safety of the crews and the motorists in the Marysville area,’’ Schreffler noted.

That part of  Route 11/15 is bordered to the east by a  rock wall and to the west by a bluff that leads to Norfolk Southern railway tracks.

‘‘We realize this is going to be a painful closure for people, especially if there is an incident on 22/322, but safety is utmost,’’ Schreffler added.

District 8-0 officials have met with state, county and local emergency responders to review plans in the event of an incident, she added.

The agency has designated an ‘‘emergency/local traffic’’ route that encompasses several streets in Marysville and Cumberland County’s East Pennsboro Twp.

According to PennDOT documents, rocks will be removed in  a manner similar to what took place along Route 147 north and south of Millersburg earlier this year.

A crane will be employed to remove vegetation and loose rock, both on the east and west slopes. After that work is completed, mesh will be installed along the rock wall, and fencing will be placed along the west slope.

Notification. District 8-0 said notification of the Route 11/15 project will be made next spring via message boards along highways on both the East and West Shores, as well as through the news media.

Crash disrupts Traffic

The early-morning crash of a tractor-trailer carrying live poultry set in motion a commuter’s nightmare on Harrisburg-area roadways July 20.

According to state police at Harrisburg, the crash occurred shortly before 6 a.m. in the eastbound lane of Route 22/322, about one-half mile west of the Fishing Creek (Route 443) interchange.

Police said Chester L. Bowser, 37, of Ellendale, Del. failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway, causing his 2007 Freightliner and trailer to veer off the right shoulder, then strike a concrete wall.

The unit overturned across both lanes  and caught fire. Bowser escaped injury, according to police.

Bowser was transporting approximately 5,000 live chickens, many of which got free of the wreckage and had to be retrieved, according to Fritzi Schreffler of PennDOT District 8-0’s Public Information Office.

It was not known as of press time how much of the cargo was lost or destroyed.

Police said Bowser was cited for violating Section 3309 of the state Vehicle Code: Driving on Roadways Laned for Traffic.

The subsequent crash response and clean-up eventually led to the closure of both lanes of Route 22/322, which is used by commuters from the Sentinel’s coverage area, as well as Perry, Juniata and Snyder counties.

A Sentinel staff member commuting to work said that, by 8 a.m. – about two hours after the crash –  northbound traffic on Route 11/15 toward Harrisburgwas practically at a standstill, as was traffic on Market Street in Duncannon and on Route 22/322 westbound out of the city.

The eastbound lanes of 22/322 were completely closed to traffic at that point, the staff member said.

The westbound lanes were reopened at about 10:50 a.m. and the eastbound lanes about two hours later, Schreffler said.

According to information on the Dauphin-Middle Paxton Fire Co. website, crews had the vehicle blaze under control in about five minutes after it was first attacked.

Volunteers remained on the scene for several hours, aiding with retrieving cargo. In  addition, firefighters hosed down pigs that were overheating while in a vehicle stuck in traffic. Elizabethville firefighters were on standby, and Summerdale volunteers assisted at the scene.


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