Accidents mounting on 322 near Jacks Creek

LEWISTOWN – Since construction began along U.S. 322 in Lewistown there have been several accidents in the area of Jacks Creek Road overpass.

Mifflin County Director of Public Safety Phil Lucas said there have been at least four accidents in this location along with an unknown number of unreported incidents.

“No causes have been clearly identified, but in most cases, the truck drivers have struck the barrier several times from before the bridge and along its length,” Lucas said. “It is one of the narrowest sections (of the construction project).”

Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. of State College is the contractor for the $14.4 million project that began March 3, which consists of rehabilitation work on several bridges. A representative with Hawbaker directed questions to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

PennDOT Safety Press Officer Dawn Roussey said it’s merely a coincidence that these crashes have occurred in the same area in such a short time frame.

“No correlation that we have come up with,” she added.

Roussey said that, in general, most crashes are the result of driver error.

“In the past five years from 2009 to 2013 there were 29 crashes in that one-mile stretch and 24 percent were due to driving too fast for conditions,” Roussey said.

Mifflin County Regional Police Chief Scott Mauery said the narrow lanes which are around 10 to 11 feet wide are difficult for an 8-foot-wide truck to navigate.

Mauery said if a trailer slides into a barrier it creates a “pinball effect” bouncing the truck back and forth against the concrete barrier and the guide rail.

Lucas said he suspects the drivers are often distracted in addition to dealing with sightline issues related to the center barrier, bridge railing and a lower guide rail at the right below the bridge railing. Most of these drivers struck at least the guide rail on the bridge before coming through the area of Jacks Creek overpass and some may have struck the guide rail before the bridge.

Work in the area is expected to last into October.