Friday, September 4, 2015

Lawsuit: Lower Southampton ignored dangerous intersection for years

Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Vladislav Shalupov 

Years before a 25-year-old Northampton man was killed when his motorcycle struck a SEPTA bus, Lower Southampton officials knew the intersection where the accident happened was dangerous, according to a civil suit filed Tuesday in Bucks County Court.

As far back as 1999, Lower Southampton officials identified the intersection of Bridgetown Pike and Elmwood Avenue as a “location where traffic improvement should be investigated,” according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of Vladislav Shalupov by attorney Robert Lynch, of the Lower Southampton firm of Hoffman, Michels & Sternberg.
Shalupov suffered fatal injuries when his 2002 Yamaha sports bike struck a SEPTA bus as it was turning left from Elmwood Avenue onto southbound Bridgetown Pike shortly before 6 p.m. Nov. 14, 2013.
On impact, he was thrown and pinned under the bus and died three days later, according to the suit, which is seeking in excess of $50,000 in damages and names SEPTA, bus driver Nate Myers, PennDOT and Lower Southampton as defendants.
The bus driver was speeding and disregarded a stop sign at an intersection on Elmwood Avenue before Bridgetown Pike, the suit claims. The bus did stop at Bridgetown Pike before turning left, according to the suit.
But the bus blocked the northbound lane of travel during its turn, placing it in the path of Shalupov, who was traveling north on Bridgetown Pike, the suit alleges. Myers was issued a traffic citation for failure of duties at a stop sign and pleaded guilty, according to court records.
The suit alleges that the bus was unable to safely make the turn without entering and remaining in the northbound lane of Bridgetown Pike for “some distance” beyond the physical intersection because of the road design.
Lower Southampton solicitor Michael Savona on Wednesday said that he was not aware of the lawsuit, had not reviewed it and was not in a position to comment. The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching Lower Southampton Manager John McMenamin for comment Wednesday. A SEPTA representative would not comment because of the ongoing litigation.
Lynch claims that township officials and SEPTA were aware of the inability to safely operate a bus through the intersection, and the Bridgetown Pike design as it approached Elmwood Avenue provided “insufficient time” for the bus to safely turn.
In the suit, Lynch cites documents from Lower Southampton that suggest the township knew that the problem intersection needed to be addressed, but failed to prioritize it as a street improvement project or act in a timely manner to make the improvements.
The documents, according to the lawsuit, suggest that in 2005, township officials were told that existing conditions on Bridgetown Pike, including the intersection with Elmwood Avenue, “serve heavy traffic volumes which exceed capacity. This results in congestion at intersections, poor levels of service and decreased safety for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”
The same year, the township authorized the payment of $170,000 for the engineering cost of a road improvement project that was expected to be completed by December 2006. That did not happen.
The suit alleges the township added the installation of a traffic light at Bridgetown Pike and Elmwood Avenue into a larger scale road improvement project that “unnecessarily delayed” the correction of the intersection. That project included modernizing and interconnecting 10 intersections along Bridgetown Pike to Route 213 including road improvements such as pavement, curbing, drainage and sidewalk changes, the suit said.
By September 2008, the township failed to complete the engineering phase of the project and no modifications were made to correct the known dangerous conditions that existed such as the installation of a traffic signal, the suit said. Township officials also acknowledged that the intersection met “traffic signal warrants and the installation of a traffic signal at this intersection will improve operations and safety at this intersection.”
Lower Southampton submitted a formal application to PennDOT requesting installation of a traffic signal at the intersection in March 2013, eight months before the fatal accident.
“They knew for a very long time about this intersection and they didn’t do anything to act,” Lynch said.

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