Speed trap accomplishes goal, police say
Dangerous stretch of Route 30 targeted
By KIRK SWAUGER
John Rock stood beside the open door of a state Department of Transportation extended-cab pickup Tuesday morning.
Nearby, John Matchik, wearing a white hard-hat and bright-yellow safety vest, swept gravel from the side of heavily traveled Route 30.
Only they weren’t PennDOT employees – they were undercover state police officers conducting a speed trap on a dangerous stretch near Stoystown.
As word quickly spread, coal trucks and cars slowed considerably as they passed the PennDOT truck and two other radar cruisers stationed a short drive away in either direction.
Mission accomplished, said Sgt. Rock, commanding officer of the Somerset barracks.
“It’s quite obvious, if you watch the traffic, the word’s out,” Rock said as he aimed a radar gun at oncoming westbound trucks in the parking lot of Weyand Sign Co.
“Traffic is slowing down considerably. That’s our goal.”
State police said they issued tickets for 15 traffic violations during the eight-hour operation.
Along with radar cruisers, five chase cars were used for the comprehensive speed trap.
Authorities said the action was taken after state police received a steady stream of complaints from Quemahoning Township supervisors and local residents about speeding coal trucks and other motorists on the highway.
Quemahoning Township officials have called for the speed to be reduced from 55 mph. Though PennDOT has lowered the speed limit to 35 mph for trucks, it has denied the township’s request to reduce it for all traffic.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls from citizens who live along this stretch of Route 30, particularly in Quemahoning Township,” Rock said. “They’re concerned about speeding vehicles.”
State police began what they dubbed “Operation Sunrise” at the crack of dawn and stayed until early afternoon.
And while they were out in force Tuesday, Rock warned the speed traps aren’t finished.
“This isn’t a one-time event,” he said. “We plan on coming out again and again.”
Now, motorists may slow down whenever they see a PennDOT truck parked on the side of the road, said Kevin Stacey, a spokesman for the transportation agency’s regional office in Hollidaysburg.
“I’m really happy with the state police working with PennDOT,” Stacey said. “We’re trying to be responsive to the concerns we’re hearing from local officials and residents.
“It’s good we’re using unconventional enforcement methods with the PennDOT trucks. That will have a psychological effect.”
Rick Weyand, owner of the sign company, said high speeds are not a widespread problem.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s about a 5,” Weyand said. “It’s not a huge problem, but we do have occasions when our trucks are trying to pull in or out and somebody’s coming around the curve too fast.
Residents along Route 30 are appeased.
“If they keep it up, it will have a lasting effect,” said Larry Powell.
Just down the road, Robert Wiedenhoft lives with his wife and two children. He is concerned by the speed of coal trucks, especially around 7 a.m., when the trucks are getting their first loads and few other motorists are on the road.
“They just fly off the hill at 70 to 80 mph,” Wiedenhoft said.
“I got behind a coal truck one day and he was going 78. I took his license plate number,” Wiedenhoft said.
“Sooner or later, there is going to be a fatality.