How a perilous stretch of Route 100 got safer

Fourteen recommendations were made for improvements to Route 100; nine were carried out. Paving was changed to increase friction.
Fourteen recommendations were made for improvements to Route 100; nine were carried out. Paving was changed to increase friction. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 26, 2013

When Martin Blumenthal arrived at the scene, one sister lay dead on the road. The other kept asking, "How is my sister?"

"I've never forgotten that," said Blumenthal, the longtime safety officer and former chief of the Ludwigs Corner Fire Company. He has responded to so many car crashes along the stretch of Chester County's Route 100 from North Coventry to Upper Uwchlan Townships that the details tend to blur together.

But some haunt him: the memory of the sisters, the conversations with parents of teenagers killed in accidents along one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the region.

Reports of unusually high numbers of fatalities and single-car crashes along Route 100 prompted the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to give the road a safety makeover that officials say has resulted in a 30 percent reduction in crashes. They say it represents a case study in how a road can be made safer.

The $1.5 million worth of fixes, a collaboration involving PennDot, legislators, and the regional and local planning commissions, ranged from simple tree-trimming to a sophisticated road-resurfacing project.

The first step, however, was to figure out just what was going on out there.

So, six years ago, PennDot and the planning commission undertook a safety study analyzing crashes from 2000 to 2001 and 2003 to 2005. They documented 382 crashes and eight fatalities along an 8.4-mile stretch.

"We were seeing a lot of cars hitting fixed objects, running off the road, speeding," said Regina Moore, a transportation engineer at the commission. "We saw a lot of wet-road-related crashes."

The commission eventually came up with a list of 14 recommendations for PennDot to implement on Route 100. Nine made it into the final project.

Along with tree-trimming, the road was treated with Nova Chip paving, which increased friction.

A recent study by the commission showed dramatic changes after the improvements. Between 2007 and 2011, according to the commission, wet-weather crashes dropped by 77 percent. It cataloged a total of 268 crashes and three fatalities.

Other measures are aimed at deterring drivers from mistakes that often lead to crashes: for example, losing control on the road's curves, speeding, or driving too fast in poor weather conditions.

Route 100 is now one of only 12 roads in the state designated as a "safety corridor" - which means drivers who get caught speeding are saddled with doubled fines. In 2005 and 2007, PennDot also installed speed signs and signs warning drivers of curves to encourage them to slow down.

Route 100 remains a work in progress, officials say. Seven years after the initial study, PennDot is returning to Route 100 to "redo some of the stuff we did" originally, said PennDot spokesman Brad Rudolph. The agency also will construct police pullouts for beefed-up speed enforcement.

PennDot's approach to Route 100 was unique in its scope, Rudolph said, but the department is hoping to apply similar improvements to other roads in the area, including Route 896 in Chester County.

In the meantime, local officials say they are grateful for Route 100's improvements over the last decade.

"Our rescue crew was becoming demoralized because of the bloodshed," Blumenthal said.

"And we had no relief until people did what they did."


Contact Aubrey Whelan

at 610-313-8112, awhelan@philly.com, or on Twitter at @aubreyjwhelan.

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