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Un-Pleasant Drive

Loud and frequent brine truck traffic angers residents along stretch of Pleasant Drive

August 28, 2010
By DEAN WELLS dwells@timesobserver.com
Todd Randolph wakes up every morning at 4 a.m. to an ominous rumble outside his small white ranch home in Pleasant Township. As the sun comes up over the trees in what was once a quiet little residential neighborhood, the rumbling grows more and more frequent as truck after truck uses Pleasant Drive to access or exit a nearby waste treatment plant. ‘When I moved here 14 years ago, this was a nice quiet neighborhood,” Randolph says. That was before the recent oil boom and the explosion of the natural gas industry thanks to the discovery of the mammoth — and incredibly lucrative — Marcellus Shale natural gas deposit. With the rebirth of oil and gas drilling in Warren County and across the state, the massive amounts brine water created by the industry through hydrofracturing needs to go someplace to be processed and purified. One of those places is Waste Treatment Corporation, located on Harmar St., just inside the city limits of Warren. The company receives dozens, if not hundreds, of brine trucks throughout the day. And many of the residents in Pleasant Township are pleased to see Waste Treatment Corporation prospering. However, there are 40-some residents along Pleasant Drive between Main Ave. and Mohawk Ave. who would like to see Waste Treatment conduct its busy a little more . . . quietly. Brine trucks leaving or approaching the facility on Harmar St. use the stretch of Pleasant Drive from the intersection of Mohawk Ave. and Rt. 6 to Main Ave. as an on and off ramp for Rt. 6. Why not use the on and off ramps from the Main Ave. interchange? That’s simple. PennDOT never bothered to build on and off ramps on the eastern side of the interchange. As a result, dozens of homeowners between Main Ave. and Mohawk Ave. have angrily watched as their once quiet residential neighborhood has been turned into a bypass for heavy truck traffic over the last year. “The amount of truck traffic varies from day to day,” Randolph says. “But there have been days when at least 100 trucks have passed through before 7 a.m. and 500 by the end of the day.” Randolph is so angry over the increased heavy truck traffic, which he says is not only noisy and distracting, but also devalues his property, that he purchased a noise decibel meter in July with the intent of proving the trucks violate the township’s noise ordinance on a regular basis. “I’ve measured the decibel levels and 90 percent of them are above 90 decibels,” Randolph says. “Some have reached 110 decibels.” Vehicles producing noise of over 90 decibels are in violation of the township’s ordinance. “I really don’t understand how this happened,” Randolph says. “Warren has a Planning and Zoning board. Was there no traffic impact study done before Waste Treatment Corporation was permitted to build and operate their plant? Any reasonable and prudent person would be able to foresee that the construction of a waste treatment facility, or any other industrial facility that would create heavy truck traffic, at that location would have a huge negative impact for all the residents along that portion of Pleasant Drive, from a noise and traffic perspective.” Right-of-way woes The genesis of Pleasant Township’s heavy truck traffic problem can be traced back to the creation of the Main Ave. bypass which crosses over Rt. 6, allowing entry into the city of Warren via its south side or to state Rt. 337 – Pleasant Drive – further to the south. The original design of the Rt. 6 Main Ave. bypass was completed in 1968-1969, according to PennDOT county supervisor Wes Hess. The design provided for the traditional bypass “diamond” with four ramps – two on the western side of the bypass, two on the eastern side. Hess said that once the bypass design was completed, PennDOT went about trying to secure the needed right-of-way clearances from local property owners for the on and off ramps. That’s where the project hit a snag. “The problem was purchasing a right-of-way from Warren Steel Company (now ADM Welding),” Hess said. “It was not acquired and the ramps (on the eastern side) were not constructed.” Leaving motorists with a dilemma of how to enter Main Ave. from the east without driving to the Ludlow St. bypass, turning around and approaching Main Ave. from the west. The easy solution? Use Pleasant Drive. Our hands are tied The Pleasant Township Supervisors acknowledge there is a growing problem with heavy truck traffic traveling the lower half of Pleasant Drive on the way to Main Ave. “They come out at 4 in the morning and just pour the coal to her coming up the hill and wake everybody up,” says supervisor Arden “Bucky” Knapp. “Then they turn on their retarders and shake their windows going the other way.” Last fall, over 40 homeowners signed a petition that asked the supervisors to publicly support the construction of the bypass’s missing eastern ramps. If that was impossible, they wanted to see some sort of restrictions placed on heavy truck traffic through their neighborhood. The supervisors received the petition and forwarded it to State Senators Mary Jo White and Joseph Scarnati, along with State Rep. Kathy Rapp. However, when it comes to restricting heavy truck traffic on Pleasant Dr., Knapp says the supervisors’ hands are tied. “We voiced our opinion, but being on a state road there’s really nothing we can do,” Knapp says. One resident in the affected area is pressing for the state to construct the missing ramps to solve the growing problem – which residents fear will only become worse once Berenfield Containers finishes its move into the vacant Rexnord facilities at the intersection of Main Ave. and Harmar. “It’s pretty bad,” says Don Carlson of the truck traffic. Carlson lives on Pleasant Drive between Linda Lane and Meadow Lane. “The noise issue is just nasty. It’s a problem with the people along Pleasant Drive and a couple houses back.” Randolph, who lives next door to Carlson, agrees. “I don’t even bother taking the storm windows out of my front door or opening any of the windows along the street side of the house anymore,” Randolph says. “Even with the doors and windows closed, you can’t carry on a conversation or hear the TV when a truck goes by.” Carlson said the increased noise and truck traffic is decreasing the neighborhood’s property values. He said there is also a safety issue. “There are people who ride bikes and walk along Pleasant Drive here,” Carlson says. “There’s a day care in the area.” “Our problem is traffic,” Carlson says. “My solution is ramps. I don’t see any other reasonable solution. It’s a state road, so we’re not going to shut it down to 5-ton traffic.” Unfortunately, construction of the missing ramps looks like a slim to none option, according to Hess. “Currently a project to construct two ramps is not in our long-term plans,” Hess says. “If it’s a priority for folks in the area, we would encourage them to ask for that it be added to the long-range transportation plan.” Hess suggested residents contact Glotz or the Northwest Commission regarding construction of the ramps. “Adding capacity is going to be something that’s difficult to get on top of the transportation plans,” Hess says. “But I don’t want them to think that it’s not a concern, though.” Other alternatives So if there’s little chance of the missing ramps being built, what other action can residents take? Simply asking the company to reroute its truck traffic is one option. But one that’s been explored and gained little momentum. Glotz said he contacted Waste Treatment Corporation’s local director at the behest of several residents, asking if the company might consider rerouting heavy truck traffic to the Ludlow interchange. “He argued that Pleasant Drive is a state road and felt the trucks had every right to use it,” Glotz says. “But he agreed to talk to the drivers and ask them to use the Ludlow St. exit and double back.” Residents say that they haven’t notice any real decrease in brine truck traffic since Glotz contacted the company. “We appreciate that Waste Treatment Corporation is providing jobs and tax base locally,” Randolph says. “We don’t want them to close their doors. What we need is some cooperation from everybody involved. What’s happening is completely unfair to the residents here. In the short term, a ‘no engine brake’ sign would help when trucks are decelerating, but that won’t help when they are accelerating. They are equally loud, if not louder, when accelerating, particularly at 4 a.m. We need the drivers to implement noise abatement practices. We need truck curfews. And in the long run, we need ramps constructed at the Main Ave. interchange.” And if Randolph doesn’t get the cooperation he’s seeking? There’s always the courts. Randolph says he has evidence via electronic monitoring that the brine trucks traveling on Pleasant Drive routinely violate the township’s noise ordinance. According to information provided by township secretary Lea Ann Adams, the ordinance states: “It shall be unlawful to operate an ATV, motorcycle or motor vehicle on public roads, streets, lanes or alleys without a proper muffler or sound suppressant device as originally provided by the manufacturer and that produces a loud noise that exceeds 90 decibels at its source.” Randolph says he has monitored brine trucks at over 90 decibels from a spot by his mail box alongside Pleasant Drive. “So if it’s over 90 decibels there, you know it’s way over 90 at the source.” “I would really like to see some cooperation here by the company,” Randolph says. “But if that isn’t the case, I’m talking a lawsuit as the next step.” Attempts to contact Waste Treatment Corporation’s headquarters via email for comment on this article were not successful.

Article Photos

Times Observer photo by Dean Wells
Brine truck driving on Pleasant Drive between Main Avenue and Mohawk Avenue

 
 

 

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