News Release: 2013 Road & Bridge Safety Awards


April 29, 2013

Contact: Ginni Linn
Director of Communications
(717) 763-0930

South Manheim Township Wins Statewide Road and Bridge Safety Improvement Award

South Manheim Township in Schuylkill County was named the winner of the 31st Annual Road and Bridge Safety Improvement Contest, presented at the 91st Annual Educational Conference of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors in Hershey April 21-24. The conference attracted attendees from every county in Pennsylvania except Philadelphia, which has no townships. South Manheim Township won the award for a road widening and sight distance improvement project.

The township association sponsors the statewide Road and Bridge Safety Improvement Contest each year in partnership with the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association and the state Department of Transportation to recognize townships for their extensive contributions of time and effort in making roads and bridges safer.

South Manheim Township’s project involved cutting back a bank at the intersection of Deibert’s Valley Road and Berne Drive to improve the sight distance. This particular stretch of Berne Drive is a well-traveled, winding, tree-lined rural road with steep hills and drop-offs. Vehicles regularly travel at speeds over 65 mph. Drivers sitting at the stop sign on Deibert’s Valley Road could not see far enough to avoid pulling out in front of one of these fast-moving vehicles. Although the township was aware of the unsafe condition, several factors hindered work to improve it.

First, the job of cutting back the bank was a big job for the township’s three-person road crew. Second, the job would require a larger excavator than the township or any neighboring municipality owned. Third, the bank would need to be cut back beyond the right of way, into privately owned land.

And finally, the township was working under a reduced road program in 2012 to save money for a future large-scale widening and resurfacing project on the same road.

In spite of these obstacles, the road crew was confident that it could complete the project, and township roadmaster Joel Herring met with the private landowner to explain the scope of the work and how it would benefit the community. The landowner gave his permission for the work to be done, and the crew turned its attention to the other two roadblocks.

To address the cost issue, Herring developed a plan that would use the soil from the bank as fill for the widening project, reducing the cost of the latter by eliminating the need for guide rails and saving fuel because the dirt would need to be moved a much shorter distance. In fact, the savings that would be realized would pay for a large portion of the sight distance improvement.

The remaining hurdle was the need for the large excavator. The road department started looking for a solution and found one in U.S. Communities, a national cooperative purchasing program that allowed the township to rent an excavator at a significant discount.
In the end, the three-man road crew increased the sight distance at the intersection from about 75 feet to 500 feet while saving thousands of dollars of taxpayer money.

“We’d like to thank PSATS, PennDOT, and PHIA for recognizing the hard work of the employees and officials of our municipality and all those who work hard every day to increase safety on our bridges and roads,” South Manheim township supervisor Gary Neidlinger said during the award presentation. “I’d like to give special thanks to the South Manheim Township road crew. It is an honor and privilege to work with such dedicated, talented professionals.”

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The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors represents Pennsylvania’s 1,455 townships of the second class and for the past 91 years has been committed to preserving and strengthening township government and securing greater visibility and involvement for townships in the state and federal political arenas. Townships of the second class cover 95 percent of the land mass in Pennsylvania and represent more residents — 5.5 million — than any other type of political subdivision in the commonwealth.

Note: Joel Herring, South Manheim Township’s roadmaster, can be reached at (570) 754-7437.