Youngwood eager for Route 119 work |
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Jacob Tierney
Traffic moves down Route 119 in Youngwood on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

Youngwood leaders are hoping a major PennDOT reconstruction of Route 119 might slow traffic through the crash-plagued borough.

The project is still in the early planning stages and is not scheduled to start until 2019.

Route 119 splits into two one-way streets as it travels through Youngwood — becoming northbound Third Street and southbound Fourth Street — before reuniting on the other side of town. PennDOT plans to rebuild both roads, while working with utility companies to move the water and sewer lines beneath them, an undertaking that could cost up to $20.8 million.

The roads are deteriorating, PennDOT engineer Liberty Hill said. They were last repaved in 2006, but the underlying concrete dates to the 1940s and ’50s.

“It’s pretty much seen its useful life. The road, and the concrete underneath, is very old,” he said.

Although the purpose of the project is to replace the concrete and asphalt, it also will give PennDOT the chance to address other community concerns about the route, Hill said.

“This is a chance for everybody to get together and bullet point all the things that are important to them,” he said.

PennDOT had a kickoff meeting with Youngwood residents last week to discuss the plans. For Youngwood leaders, the biggest concern is speeding.

“I wish they would do it sooner than they’re planning. … We’ve got to do something to try to calm and slow traffic down,” said council President Lloyd Crago.

Much of the northbound traffic comes from the nearby eastern terminus of I-70, and many drivers ignore the posted speed limits and cruise through town at highway speeds, Crago said.

“The amount of vehicle accidents we have on Third and Fourth street is crazy,” he said.

There have been two fatal crashes along Route 119 in Youngwood so far this year, and four less-serious wrecks in the past week alone, Crago said. About 14,000 vehicles drive through the borough on Route 119 every day, according to PennDOT.

The borough has established a committee to work with PennDOT on planning the project. Engineers are weighing several options to try to slow traffic, although it’s too early to know which will be used in Youngwood, Hill said.

The lanes could be narrowed a bit but not by much, he said.

“We have to be careful. We have a lot of trucks coming through town, and we have parking there, and if you narrow the lanes too much, you could make things worse,” he said.

Other options include repainting the streets in a way that makes them look more like community roads than highways; installing a permanent radar sign to warn drivers about their speed; and lowering the 35-mph speed limit on Third Street to match Fourth Street’s 25 mph, Hill said.

PennDOT is working with the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County to move water and sewer lines away from the center of the roads. It also will move or remove the many manholes that dot the streets, which should make for a smoother ride, Hill said.

Construction likely will begin in spring 2019 and wrap up sometime the following year, Hill said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or [email protected].

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