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Palo Alto plans to crack down on increased speeding problem

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PALO ALTO — The state Department of Transportation’s ongoing project to replace two bridges close to each other on Route 61 in Pottsville and Palo Alto drove some motorists to consider detours.

Some who turn into Palo Alto to take its mile-long main street — Bacon Street — to Port Carbon fail to take note to the 30 mph signs along the way, according to Palo Alto Mayor John Deatrich Jr.

“There’s a speeding problem, and this area is mostly residential,” Deatrich said Thursday.

“A few months ago, someone came through here driving in the mid-50s. It was in the late afternoon, early evening, when everybody’s in a rush to get home. I gave them a speeding citation. The fine starts at $45 for being 10 miles an hour over the speed limit, and for every mile an hour over that it’s $2 additional on top of that,” Zachary Malas, part-time patrolman in the borough, said Thursday.

“Here in the borough, there’s always been a speeding problem, and it’s increased since the Route 61 construction project causes backups and motorists decide that it’s easier to just come through Palo Alto to get to where they’re going rather than wait in traffic. So they’re kind of zipping through here,” Deatrich said.

The main street is bordered by playgrounds, businesses and homes.

“There is a high population of children in the borough. All the parking is on one side of the street and, sometimes, children walk between parked cars to cross the street. Bad things can happen,” the mayor said.

Concerned, borough officials are looking into a few ways to encourage drivers to slow down. They’re hoping to find funding to put up additional speed limit signs and equipment to help their officers improve enforcement efforts. So far, they’ve borrowed a radar speed sign from West Penn Township police to remind motorists how fast they’re going.

“They lent it to us two weeks ago. This is just a reminder. That’s all it is. It doesn’t collect data. It doesn’t have the ability to photograph license plates or issue citations or anything like that. It’s just a reminder for motorists to show them how fast they’re going,” Deatrich said.

On Thursday, it was across the street from the 142 E. Bacon St. borough hall facing west-bound traffic.

Just after 1 p.m., west-bound vehicles in the area were traveling between 28 and 39 mph, according to the device.

“We intend to move it to other areas and the other side of the street,” Deatrich said.

Meanwhile, the borough is looking into getting some additional speed limit signs.

At present, there are six 30 mph speed limit signs bordering the west-bound lane of Bacon Street and three 30 mph speed limit signs bordering the east-bound lane of Bacon Street.

“In the next week or two I plan on going through, doing an inventory and taking pictures to know exactly where these signs are,” Deatrich said.

Deatrich said he’d like to see a new type of sign put up for east-bound traffic coming off Route 61.

“When you come off of 61, there should be a reduce speed limit sign there,” Deatrich said.

He’d also like to find funding to improve the speed limit signs along Bacon Street.

“We have to figure out cost and who would do it. Would the state do it? Or would our borough workers do it?” he asked.

Meanwhile, borough police have been working with what resources they have to deal with speeders.

The borough has a full-time officer, Joseph Kavanaugh, and one part-time officer, Malas.

“The police have been doing more enforcement and they have been giving more tickets out,” Deatrich said, but he didn’t have any statistics regarding that Thursday.

The VASCAR — Visual Average Speed Computer And Recorder — system doesn’t work too well in the borough, according to the mayor.

It’s a vehicle speed measuring system that computes the speed a vehicle travels between white lines painted on the road.

“Distance can be measured using the patrol vehicle odometer (the VASCAR computer is connected directly to the odometer), or entered from a keyboard inside the patrol vehicle,” according to www.vascar.com.

“The way this town’s set up, if a police vehicle has to be placed where an officer can see these lines, the people traveling down the road can see the car. So they’re going to slow down,” the mayor said.

Malas said he’s been using the Robic-brand stopwatch to patrol for speeders in the borough.

“I’d like people to know we have that system and that these guys can run speed checks and hide our car,” Deatrich said.

“I can be anywhere I want, as long as I can see the lines on the road,” Malas said.

“I think people believe that if they don’t see the police car along the road the borough isn’t on patrol. We have to get more aggressive with that,” Deatrich said.

The borough could use a second police radio, the mayor said.

If the borough had two radios, one officer can stand along the road and clock the speed of vehicles coming by. If the officer catches a speeder, the officer can radio to a second officer in a patrol car down the street.

So Deatrich is trying to find the funding to buy a second radio for the borough police force.

“I wrote to the D.A. (district attorney) and asked the D.A. for a grant for one. I haven’t heard back yet. If we can find the funding, then we can run that system,” Deatrich said.

According to the website for the United States Census Bureau at www.census.gov, the 2015 population estimate for Palo Alto was 1,009.

 

Courtesy: STEPHEN J. PYTAK

 
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