Narberth borough's Highway Committee was joined at its monthly meeting Monday night by invited guests from Lower Merion's Board of Commissioners, Pennoni Associates traffic engineers, PennDOT and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. The sole topic: how to improve the intersection of East Wynnewood Road and North Wynnewood Avenue, where a teenage pedestrian was badly injured in a collision Dec. 13.
Local resident Pam Loughman spearheaded a petition after the accident that got nearly 500 neighbors to lobby for a stoplight and a crosswalk at the intersection. However, PennDOT representative Larry Bucci pointed out that the agency—which owns Wynnewood Road, a state highway—uses statistical thresholds to distinguish need for intersection improvements.
Several attendees took a dim view of PennDOT's history at the intersection—resident Liz Brown said she believed improvements had "basically been stonewalled by PennDOT for 20, 25 years"—but Bucci countered that the information available to the agency only tells part of the story and that there are hundreds of municipalities making similar requests. He estimated that 10 serious, reportable crashes had happened at the curved T-intersection in the past five or six years.
Brown said she drove through the intersection soon after the accident and saw the girl lying injured: "I don't want to see that again."
One key stat is a simple traffic count: number of vehicles using the intersection per hour. Pennoni's Brian Keaveney said a recent study showed an average of about 1,600 vehicles in the morning rush hour, 1,800 in the afternoon, "which is a high amount of traffic for a stop-controlled intersection."
Keaveney acknowledged that count was conducted during the closure of the Narberth Avenue bridge, which recently reopened. Previous counts at the bridge saw about 290 to 370 cars an hour.
Keaveney suggested that besides a traffic light, an all-way stop could work, or a roundabout.
To one suggestion of a lower speed limit, DVRPC's Michael Becker said, "The problem is that cars are going to go as fast as they feel comfortable."
Local officials agreed the borough and township would need to work together on any intersection improvements. BOC President Liz Rogan said, "I can tell you that there is probably a majority of support on the 14-member board that would help pay for a traffic light."
Rogan is a resident of the Shortridge neighborhood, across Wynnewood Road from Narberth, and she added, "All my neighbors want a traffic light here." The Shortridge Civic Association was scheduled to meet Tuesday evening and discuss the intersection issue.
Other officials' suggestions:
- Lower Merion Commissioner Cheryl Gelber: "I feel very strongly that something should be done at this intersection ... but I think the whole (Wynnewood Road) corridor needs to be looked at."
- Lower Merion Commissioner Brian Gordon: "It's probably time to put in a light ... but would it be possible to put in a (three-way) stop sign as an interim measure to see how it worked? (Crossing Wynnewood Avenue) reminds me of the video game Frogger."
- Narberth Councilman Mike Alexander: "What I've been reading is that roundabouts are the safest alternative. ... It could allow traffic to flow as it should."
- Narberth Councilman Bob Weisbord: "It's a mystery to me why anyone ever thought we could have two lanes merging into five around a curve ... We should make it two lanes with a center turn lane all the way to Williams, at least. ... Why be small about this? Let's do everything we need to do."
Loughman and other residents reminded officials not to underestimate the need for a safe pedestrian crossing at the intersection just because of the low pedestrian counts. The danger of crossing Wynnewood Road currently is precisely what prevents many people from trying, they said.
"I think the pedestrian problem here has not been appreciated in the past," Loughman said.
Narberth Councilman Bob Wegbreit, who chaired the meeting, said the next step would be for Keaveney to examine all suggestions from the meeting before making a recommendation to the committee at a later meeting. It was unclear when the township Board of Commissioners might vote on the matter.