Large trucks continue to cause problems in downtown Greensburg
On paper, tractor-trailers are prohibited on Main Street in Greensburg. In practice, large trucks trundle through the city daily.
One flatbed truck knocked over a light pole this month, causing $12,000 in damage. The driver has not been located.
City code prohibits trucks over 6 tons from driving on Main Street and most other city roads, except when making local deliveries. However, city police said they didn’t even know this rule existed, and that it would be essentially impossible to enforce.
“That’s a new one to me,” said Sgt. Donald Cole, who has handled truck inspections for the police department since 2000.
Police focus their efforts on keeping trucks off narrow side streets.
“You want them to stay on Main Street; it’s the lesser evil,” police Capt. Robert Stafford said.
Main Street is part of U.S. Route 119 and Pennsylvania Business Route 66.
“It’s been a state route for years to come through here,” Cole said.
Heavy truck traffic in Greensburg has been a problem for decades, but the Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass was supposed to fix the problem. The 13.2-mile toll road, constructed in the early 1990s, reroutes 66 around the city, connecting Route 22 near Delmont in the north with the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange at New Stanton in the south.
A 1990 Tribune-Review report described it as the result of “20 years of political wheeling and dealing” on the part of longtime state Rep. Amos Hutchinson, who died of cancer two weeks before the groundbreaking ceremony.
Hutchinson, a Greensburg native, advocated for the bypass as a way to reduce traffic in the city.
Many tractor-trailers do take the bypass, but some still choose to brave Main Street, Cole said.
“They’re all trying to avoid tolls,” he said. “These guys tell me their companies won’t pick up their tolls.”
Tolls at the mainline plaza on the bypass range from $1.46 for cars to $82.75 for extremely large vehicles. Most tractor-trailers pay between $8 and $20, depending on their size.
Hutchinson originally envisioned the bypass as a free road, but construction costs made that impossible, the Tribune-Review reported in 1990.
Police aren’t too concerned about large trucks driving straight down Main Street, Stafford said. The real problems come when they attempt to turn onto a side road.
This happens fairly often, he said, because following Route 119 requires turning off Main onto Pittsburgh or Otterman streets, a maneuver that’s difficult for tractor-trailers. Truckers familiar with the area know alternate routes, but those following a GPS or a route established by an out-of-town trucking company often find themselves in tight situations.
“Those routes come out of Harrisburg for all the big trucking companies, and those are routes they have to follow,” Stafford said. “In Harrisburg, I don’t think they have any idea what any of these streets look like.”
Pain on Main
On Main Street, size can be a problem. Oversized loads need a permit from PennDOT to travel through the city, but not all truckers follow these regulations, Cole said.
The road is fairly narrow and slaloms back and forth to accommodate turning lanes.
“Those roadways are tight, and those trucks have to get over to the right as far as they can,” Cole said.
That’s probably what happened Nov. 8 when the truck knocked over a light pole.
The large flatbed truck appeared to be hauling heavy drilling equipment, police Chief Chad Zucco said.
Cole suspects the driver was staying tight to the side of the road, the load shifted and the back of the trailer clipped the pole.
“I don’t even know if the guy knew he hit it,” he said.
Police have not identified the truck, though its photo has been distributed to inspection officers across the state, Cole said.
Greensburg police do about 70 truck inspections a year, particularly at night when pulling a truck over is less likely to disrupt traffic.
They’re not checking weight — they lack the specialized scales to do so — but they are looking at a slew of other potential violations, including license and registration status and whether the truck’s logbook has been properly kept.
A single inspection can take an hour or more.
Cole and one other city police officer are trained by PennDOT to perform inspections.
Cole doesn’t think trucks will stop parading down Main Street anytime soon.
“If they’re coming off (Route) 22, that’s the most direct route,” he said.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter @Soolseem.