‘A settled matter’

City Council thwarts effort to flip roundabout decision

Back in November, Warren City Council elected the roundabout option for the intersection of Market St. and Pennsylvania Ave. in a 5-1 vote.

Four of those members held to that position in the face of a challenge by newly-appointed Councilman John Lewis and voted down Lewis’ effort to flip the decision during Monday’s council meeting.

Further challenges to the decision won’t be entertained by council as Mayor Maurice Cashman said after the meeting that the issue is now “a settled matter.”

Lewis had called for a motion to rescind the approval of a resolution that selected the roundabout option at a special meeting held last week.

Lewis kicked off the discussion on Monday by noting that the city’s Planning Commission made a formal recommendation in support of the traffic signal option.

He said he also “polled most of the managers within the city” to ask their “professional opinion.” Noting that the theme was “anywhere but that intersection.”

He noted that that’s the opinion of the people “that we pay to manage the city.”

Lewis proceeded to present roundabout data from New Jersey – where roundabouts are being removed – and Minnesota.

“We have the option here to put in a traffic light that will greatly increase the efficiency of the turning at that intersection,” he said, noting that he’s been arguing in favor of re-programming the light for years and that this might be the opportunity to do so.

The issue then was opened up for public comment.

Dave Wortman, vice president of supply and transportation with United Refining Company addressed council.

He said the company views this as a “very serious matter” and said that “every carrier that moves product out of United Refining Company” is opposed “due to serious safety concerns” for tanker trucks, the motoring public and pedestrians.

Wortman then spoke about “risk management.”

“This is a very safe intersection given the amount of traffic that goes through Market St. and Pennsylvania Ave. Why would we deliberately introduce an unknown? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

He argued that “Warren doesn’t have a serious traffic problem” and noted that “whenever I hear an expert… sound off and bring to attention of the decision makers serious concerns about a particular issue or an item, you need to… pay attention to that” and said URC hasn’t engaged council on issues previously and is this time based on safety concerns.

He said that “foundational anchors in the business community are telling you” this isn’t a good idea. “I encourage you to listen to those local experts. We’re not here because we think it’s a frivolous issue…. (We) think this is a serious issue.”

“Just because you can’t, doesn’t mean you should” vote to maintain the roundabout. “Vote the safe option which is the signal replacement.”

Bob Willman said that “roundabouts, they work; but they don’t work in pedestrian areas.”

He noted that individuals with disabilities need the light to cross safely as pedestrians and that moving to a roundabout would “take that whole section of town away” from disabled individuals.

Cheryl Miles noted URC’s concerns and said that “I don’t know why it is even being considered. If they’re saying it’s not going to be safe, it’s not going to be safe.”

Pauline Steinmyer noted that city staff are opposed to the roundabout.

Council then briefly discussed the item.

Councilman Paul Giannini noted that PennDOT initially said the decision was “too close to call in PennDOT’s eyes.”

“Not once during this process did someone come up to me and say traffic lights don’t work,” he said, noting he has received “countless complaints on the subject.”

He suggested council should be more thoughtful.

“The decision is up to us to determine what is best for our community.”

“Trucks do go through roundabouts,” Cashman said. “They get through there very successfully.”

He noted that PennDOT’s most recent feedback indicated that the roundabout was safer.

“When I’ve been out in the public, except for really two people,” comments he’s received have been “in favor of a roundabout” with improved traffic flow. “All the scare tactics, they just don’t believe in.”

Lewis reiterated prior to the vote that council should consider what the experts and engineers are saying on the issue.

Councilman Jim Zavinski noted that council is “going to make someone angry, no matter what you do.”

A “yes” vote supported Lewis’ motion to rescind and Lewis, Giannini and Zavinski voted yes.

Voting in opposition were councilmen Gregory Fraser, Phil Gilbert, Richard Kolcharno in addition to Cashman.