Officials concerned about crashes in Route 283 westbound construction zone

LOWER SWATARA TOWNSHIP, P.A. --- State Police officials say they've seen more than a dozen crashes in the first two weeks of the Route 283 westbound construction project between Lancaster and Harrisburg.

Of the 15 reported crashes, seven have involved commercial vehicle.

One of those commercial vehicle crashes involved a vehicle hitting and killing someone illegally crossing the interstate.

Due to the amount of accidents, Trooper Brent Miller said Pennsylvania State Police will be taking a concerted effort to try and make the zone safer..

"The lanes are very narrow so there's no room for error," said Trooper Miller.

One of the problems authorities are seeing with some of the crashes is distracted driving.

"We have females putting on make-up on their way to work, you have people using their cell phones, people eating, people playing with the radio," said Miller.

The other issue is speeding.

While the speed limit on Route 283 has dropped from 65 to 55, authorities say they're still seeing speeds near 70 miles per hour through the project.

Greg Penny with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said these problems are catching road crews' attention.

"The contractor is concerned about the safety of his work crews out there," said Penny.

Penny also said the contractor, Hempt Brothers, is asking to drop the speed limit further to 45 miles per hour.

"We're looking into it, we're not sure we want to go in that direction yet," said Penny.

PennDOT officials say it, generally, takes a week or two following the start of a project to notice drivers getting up to speed on the pattern.

Those who've driven through the zone, such as East Hanover Township resident Jim Williams, said he believes the biggest issue is the new look to the route.

"I see people driving, not knowing where they're going and all of a sudden, everything changes for them. When they thought they knew where they were going...They didn't. Everything is different," said Williams.

Penny said one source of confusion is the Route 283 Westbound split.

There's an express lane and a local lane.

He recommended that if you're going to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, stay in the express lane.

If you need to take an exit while on 283 westbound, he said stay in the local lane.

The $89 million project is slated to continue until 2020, with work starting on Route 283 eastbound in 2019.