2010-12-16 / Letters

Change In Bus Route Jeopardizes Children’s Safety

To The Editor:

Lesson to be learned. Classroom teacher: Does anybody know where Burnt Cabins is located in Pennsylvania? No answer: Huh.

Teacher: Well, class, it’s located 144 miles east of Pittsburgh, Pa., 60 miles west of Harrisburg, Pa., in south-central Pennsylvania. Burnt Cabins is located seven miles north of the PA Turnpike at Fort Littleton, Pa., on U.S. 522 north and south. Now 522 is a major truck route between I-70 south in the county of Fulton and U.S. 522 goes north to U.S. 22 or William Penn Highway at Mt. Union in neighboring Huntingdon County.

Information available shows crashes in the Burnt Cabins area from January 1, 2005, to August 22, 2008, at 48 crashes in four years. No data has been compiled since. The first thing everybody has to understand is that Rt. 522 through Burnt Cabins is a wagon trail, paved westward, formerly called the Forbes Trail, to Bedford County and onto Pittsburgh and Fort Ligonier.

U.S. 522 is literally a cowpath, twisty, hilly, dangerous. At safe speeds it’s negotiable; bad weather, it’s crazy.

Now we enter the motorized age and you put cars and trucks on this highway. Then right in the middle of this, the school bus age begins.

My mother lived at the Harry Keebaugh homestead, between Fort Littleton and Burnt Cabins, and she walked to classes every day. They didn’t know what a school bus was back in her days. Traffic was at a bare minimum, but Mr. Keebaugh got killed crossing the highway to get his mail.

That’s right, there’s a mail route through Burnt Cabins, but everybody that lives on the north side of the highway pays for a postal box at the post office, and they drive there to get their mail. I wonder why? It’s plain and simple, it’s just too dangerous.

Bus #29 leaves its nest on Rt. 475, Hustontown. At approximately 7:14 a.m. it enters Burnt Cabins. October 21, 2010, I sat in Burnt Cabins. Bus #29 came there, picked up one student. Two vans left Burnt Cabins, each picking up students. Sixtyfour cars and trucks interacted with these buses. Instead of the children being picked up on the south berm of the road, like it has done for decades, it leaves Burnt Cabins for 2.2 miles, enters Huntingdon County, picks up two children, and up to Cowans Gap to pick up one child. It’s 14.4 miles on the bus until it gets back to my daughter’s house. Problem is her kids have to leave their driveway and cross two lanes of traffic to get on the bus. It’s not safe. We have had one real close call. My granddaughter just crossed the yellow line in the fog and rain, tractor-trailer blowed by the bus, cars blow by the bus, tractors lock up their brakes and slide right up to the bus before they get stopped.

Three school board meetings and numerous visits to the office, nothing has been accomplished. Winter’s coming and roads are going to be icy. It becomes a new ballgame now. The bus driver changed the route. He gets paid to drive the bus, it’s not his place to do this. The contractor says, “It’s OK.” The superintendent says, “That’s OK, boys, I’ve got your back, boys.” Looks like the good old boys’ club working together again.

The superintendent just keeps being adamant about changing the bus back the way it was. You have people in the school district elected by the Democratic process in each township to do the right job while they are in office. They weren’t included in the process when all this mess started unfolding. Now, he has seven people out of nine convinced he is doing the right thing. The simplist solution is to put the bus back the way it’s been for decades. There are issues far too deep to write about in a letter to the editor. Everybody happy and safe, that’s all we ask for. Our children to be safe, walk out of their driveways, up the steps on the bus and into school in an orderly fashion. Children should not have to start their school day out every day like this.

If the school wants to stay on the path their pursuing, it now becomes a legal issue. We have given them all the opportunities to make it right.

There have been federal laws broken, civil laws broken, and now it’s become a liability issue for everyone involved, from the bus driver, down through and including everyone on the school board.

Martin Brown

Burnt Cabins

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