Tractor-Trailer Accident Shuts Down West Kittanning Traffic

PennDOT crews re-route traffic near the Butler Road/Nixon Street intersection in West Kittanning Borough yesterday afternoon after a tractor-trailer accident shortly after 8:30AM. An excavator hauled by MDS Energy snagged sagging power lines and were ripped off, and pulled the utility poles along with it causing the Franklin Hill Road closure for nearly seven hours.

by Jonathan Weaver

Local motorists not only had rainy and windy conditions to deal with on their way to work Wednesday morning, but also dealt with a two-vehicle accident in West Kittanning.

The accident, which occurred at approximately 8:40AM at the intersection of Nixon Street and Butler Road in West Kittanning Borough, closed the area along Franklin Hill Road (Route 268) between Old Butler Road and the Hilltop Plaza shopping center for approximately seven hours.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 10 Public Information Officer Deborah Casadei said the roadway was opened at approximately 3:40PM. Officials originally reported the roadway could have been closed until 5PM.

According to East Franklin Township Police, a 2005 International tractor trailer owned by MDS Energy of Kittanning traveling south and hauling an excavator snagged low-hanging overhead wires. This caused telephone and cable wires to snap off the utility poles onto a pick-up truck, also owned by MDS Energy.

Neither the tractor trailer driver – John Lower of Worthington – nor the pickup driver – Richard Travis of Mayport – was injured, according to MDS Energy Owner Mike Snyder. There were no vehicle damages.

Snyder said weather was the main factor for the accident.

“This is really just a repercussion from the freezing rain causing the power lines to stretch and hang lower than normal,” Snyder said. “Luckily no one was hurt, but (MDS Energy was) at no fault.”

He explained vehicles and transport are not allowed to be more than 13 feet, 1 inch tall at any given time without an oversized load permit through PennDOT, and that fallen power lines hit right at that barrier.

Since there were no injuries or further damages, the accident will not delay any scheduled work within the company. The excavator was on its way to North Buffalo Township for maintenance.

East Franklin Fire Chief Mark Feeney said how the excavator was involved.

“The arm that was up with the (excavator) caught the Windstream lines and pulled them down – which pulled the poles and the power lines down,” Feeney said.

Feeney called the WTYM Morning Show to notify motorists of a suggested detour.

“We (were) having a lot of problems with people, traffic. If you’re coming down from Kittanning or (Franklin Village Mall), it’d be easier to just grab the Graff Bridge rather than all the detours we got up here,” Feeney said.

“It’s going to take hours to get the poles back in and put them back together,” he added.

PennDOT crews detoured traffic off State Route 268 to Butler Road before merging back onto Route 422 and back into West Kittanning.

Snyder was notified of the incident by Lower within minutes.

Out of the 15 tractor trailers within MDS Energy, this was the first involved in such an incident.

“There have been no incidents prior,” Snyder said.

Feeney predicted 90 percent of the Hilltop Plaza businesses – which feature Foodland, the Holiday Inn Express and WalMart – lost phone service.

West Penn Power External Affairs Manager Robi Lombardo said he did not receive report of long outages incurred Wednesday due to the accident.

“What happens in those situations a lot of times is while we replace the pole that was broken, we do the load switching while we keep the lines hot, but we just feed those customers from a different direction,” Lombardo said. “Chances are that’s probably what happened there.”

Calls to Windstream Communications last night were not returned.

The traffic intersection impacted was completed last year after nearly two seasons of construction to ensure motorist safety in all three directions.

Workers rebuild utility poles along Franklin Hill Road before both lanes of the roadway were reopened at approximately 3:40PM following an early morning accident yesterday.