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Chester County Press

Traffic concerns raised over Amish farm at intersection

06/12/2017 09:07AM ● By J. Chambless

The farm recently purchased by the Stoltzfus family is bisected by Appleton Road, and the family crosses the road several times a day from the home (on the right) to the barn.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Nan Latimer has lived on Appleton Road for 22 years, and she has seen the country road turn into a high-speed shortcut for commuters. But Latimer, who is a former supervisor in Franklin Township, is most concerned about the risk of a fatal accident at the intersection of Appleton and Strickersville roads.

The family of Samuel and Sallie Stoltzfus recently purchased a 107-acre farm at the intersection near Latimer's home, and they have been raising dairy cattle. The Amish family crosses the intersection several times a day, both on foot and with teams of horses, and drivers on Appleton Road may not be aware of the hazards.

In comments shared with the Chester County Press, Latimer wrote, “I talked to Samuel and he said that he observes confusion at the intersection, with many cars stopped at the Strickersville stop sign proceeding into the intersection, even when there is a car approaching on Appleton Road. Drivers think it is a four-way stop. He also indicated that, in his travels, most of the crossroad intersections are four-way stops in the area, which adds to the confusion.”

Latimer said that “Many times as I pull out of my driveway, a car that is not in my sight distance is riding my bumper almost immediately, and sometimes when I am not traveling at the faster speed, they pull out and pass me on a double line. In addition, tractor trailers travel on this road. The road is narrow and some have become stuck on the side of the road because a tire slipped off the road into the mud.

“I have had five incidents in which drivers have lost control of their vehicles and crashed into my fence, which is set back off the road by 10 to 15 feet,” Latimer added. “My daughter had a crash at the intersection when someone pulled out in front of her as she traveled south on Appleton Road. The other driver said, 'I thought it was a four-way stop.'”

The stop signs on Strickersville Road do indicate that oncoming traffic does not stop, but the warnings are too often ignored by inattentive drivers.

Latimer has lobbied for stop signs to be placed on Appleton Road to slow traffic and ensure the safety of the Stoltzfus family, but so far, her attempts have been futile.

“In March, I approached the staff at Franklin Township and asked for help,” Latimer wrote. “The staff at the office contacted PennDOT and asked for a stop sign. They were told that a stop sign was not warranted as there were not the required five reportable crashes in the last year. A reportable crash is when a tow truck is required to remove the vehicle and/or a ambulance is called due to injuries or death. … As to their reportable crashes, if a car hits a person or a horse, it will be a death.”

State Police officials have said the sight distance at the intersection was adequate, Latimer said, but she is concerned that children or slow-moving teams of horses may not be avoidable by drivers.

“I went to John Lawrence’s town meeting on May 15 and asked for his help,” Latimer wrote. “I have purchased two stop signs myself and would donate them to the township to be put up. He indicated that PennDOT was not easy to work with.”

Latimer will bring up the issue at the June 21 Franklin Township Board of Supervisors meeting, addressing the intersection but also advising residents of the presence of the Amish farm, which is the township's first.

“Although there has been farming at the crossroad for more than 100 years, the type of farming has returned to where it started,” Latimer wrote. “They use family labor and horses during their work day. The family, including children, cross the road on foot from the house to the barn to milk the cows and do other farm chores. Teams of horses cross the road from the barn to the house and fields to work. The mode of transportation for the family is horse and buggy.”

Meanwhile, Latimer has contacted local school bus companies so that their drivers are made aware of the hazards of the intersection, as well as local trash companies. Beyond that, she is waiting to see what she can get done through the Board of Supervisors after the June 21 meeting.

A letter written to PennDOT by the Stoltzfus family reads, in part, “Our concern is that our children will need to cross the road multiple times a day in order to operate our family farm there at the property, and the existing traffic runs very fast through the intersection. We feel that if there were a four-way stop at the intersection it would be much safer for our children and also for vehicle drivers who would be crossing through a working farm.”

Franklin Township Board of Supervisors chairman John Auerbach shares Latimer's concern, and submitted a letter he wrote several years ago about road conditions in the township. “In my 35 years of living here, the Franklin Township and PennDOT have made significant improvements in the quality of our roads in the form of signage, drainage, shoulder improvements and some adjustments to curves and hills,” Auerbach wrote. “Unfortunately, the basic configuration of our roads lacks the engineered design of new roads. As our area developed, the unsealed paths that served early farms were just paved, without employing engineering techniques. We have well-maintained roads that are poorly designed with bad curves, hills, bumps, and many driveways with inadequate sight distance”

In the case of the proposed stop signs, Auerbach wrote, “A four-way stop this intersection would surely be a traffic calming feature and increase safety for drivers, horse-drawn carriages, and pedestrians. The four-way stop sign system installed at routes 896 and 841 has been a huge success in reducing the number and severity of traffic conflicts. The primary advantage of the four-way is that traffic in all directions must stop. If there is a conflict, the vehicle velocity is low, and serious injuries are avoided.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].