HONESDALE, PA — An incoming 10-ton weight limit on the Owego Turnpike has business owners concerned and local leaders frustrated. At the Wayne County Commissioners …
HONESDALE, PA — An incoming 10-ton weight limit on the Owego Turnpike has business owners concerned and local leaders frustrated. At the Wayne County Commissioners meeting on Thursday, February 18, Gary Podunajec—president and CEO of the local paving and excavating company Wayco Inc.—turned to the commissioners in a final plea for help.
State Route 3028, known locally as the Owego Turnpike, is the fastest route connecting the boroughs of Waymart and Hawley, bypassing downtown Honesdale. For years, it’s been an essential artery for companies like Wayco that rely on heavy trucks to transport their materials. According to PennDOT, as a result of such heavy truck traffic, the road is deteriorating faster than PennDOT can keep up with the maintenance, hence the new 10-ton limit.
“A lot of our older four-digit roads weren’t designed for modern-day truck traffic,” said Gary Scochin, posted and bonded roads coordinator. “As truck traffic increases over the years... in order to protect them and to preserve our existing structure and to keep them safe for all traveling public, we search the road and we look into posting the weight restriction.”
Podunajec said that the restriction—effective March 8—leaves his company with basically two options: pay more money to use the turnpike or start traveling between Waymart and Hawley via Route 6, sending trucks directly through downtown Honesdale. Neither choice is attractive to Podunajec.
To have trucks on that road, Podunajec said he’ll have to post a bond of $12,500 a mile, costing more than $156,000 from one end to the other. He’ll also have to enter into an excessive maintenance agreement, which involves taking a survey of the road at the company’s expense, and requiring the company to pay for any repairs needed as a result of its traffic. Scochin said with these agreements, PennDOT is basically telling companies to “leave the road as you found it.”
“The impact to us other than that is going to be the time and the location of the excess traffic that can’t travel the roads,” Podunajec said. “I estimate between 30 and 50 truckloads of material a day coming up and down the Owego Turnpike... I’m sure my competitors have at least that or more... so that impact now will no longer be felt [on the Owego], it’s going to be felt in Hawley, Honesdale, Texas Township, because Route 6 will have to be traveled.”
Podunajec said that he understands that the road is deteriorating, but wishes PennDOT had found another solution than the weight limit. He participated in a virtual meeting with Rep. Jonathan Fritz, Rep. Mike Peifer, Sen. Lisa Baker, representatives from other affected companies—Hanson Aggregates, Leeward Construction and Haines & Kibblehouse Group—and talked with several PennDOT representatives about alternative solutions to posting the weight restriction.
“We had discussed with them some alternatives of what they could do, none of which obviously came to fruition,” he said.
However, Scochin said that PennDOT has not shut the door on finding other options in the future.
“We’re still looking into a lot of the alternatives, some of the things we’re going to look into in the future. At this point, it comes down to the funding for these types of projects,” he said. “There’s going to be some improvements and some repair projects coming up in the near future.”
Chairman Brian Smith called the situation “very irritating,” both because the commissioners were not involved in the decision-making process at all, and because he feels PennDOT is not taking the affected businesses or community into consideration.
“Did anybody propose to them—instead of making you post the road, and bond the road, and agree to fix the road—hire you to do it right and have a nice road when you’re done?” Smith asked. “You’re the one that has Wayco, you’re the one that has the quarry, you’re the one that has the ability to get it done, and you’re the one that pays the road tax to a great degree.”
Scochin didn’t mention any plans for hiring Wayco. But he did say that PennDOT offers a partnership program. If a company using the posted and bonded route wants to make improvements to that road, it can partner with PennDOT, which will provide 50 percent of the funding, or 50 percent of the work, to upgrade the roadway and remove the weight restriction. Smith predicted problems arising this coming summer, with construction and tourism seasons both in full swing, coalescing into one big jam on Route 6.
If the expected congestion materializes, Podunajec is worried about residents seeing his company as “the bad guy.”
“[The trucks are] going to have your logo on them, so people think it’s you,” commissioner Joe Adams pointed out.
Adams further advocated for Podunajec, saying that the Owego has been heavily used by trucks for several decades, and called on PennDOT to fix the structural issues, rather than post the weight restriction.
“There’s 50 to 70 years of deferred maintenance that has not been done on the Owego Turnpike,” he said. “An accumulation of 70 years of not doing it the right way, of course it’s going to fail, but you need to fix it.”