One woman is dead. Another critically injured. Can the risks of this busy highway be reduced?
Just before 6:30 p.m. on November 8, Cleona resident Kimberly Schaeffer was sitting in the living room of her home on Route 422 when she heart a familiar sound outside.
Then, she heard screaming.
“Initially, my brain doesn’t want to accept what happened,” Schaeffer said recently. “Because it’s horrifying when you hear that.”
She soon snapped back to reality.
The sound she had heard was the noise of a car accident.
Lebanon resident Lorraine Bordner was crossing the street in the 200 block of East Penn Avenue when she was struck by a car travelling eastbound. Bordner, a 69-year-old Army veteran who served in the Pentagon, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Bordner had been at Schwalm’s Cleona Restaurant with her family, celebrating the birthday of her son, who passed away in 2017. Bordner had five kids and was a grandmother, her daughter Jaimie Gerlach said.
“She was just a great grandmother,” Gerlach said.
The incident was traumatic for Schaeffer, who called 911 as her neighbors tried to help Bordner.
But it wasn’t surprising.
In her 25 years living on the 200 block of East Penn Avenue – the name for Route 422 in Cleona – Schaeffer has witnessed her fair share of accidents. Walking on or across the road is “terrifying,” Schaeffer said, and she was so worried about her kids wandering too close to the road when they were younger that she fenced in her front yard.
Accidents didn’t seem to be as prevalent when Schaeffer first moved in.
“It’s definitely getting worse,” Schaeffer said.
On Friday, Jan. 10, it happened again. A 33-year-old woman entering her vehicle on the 300 block of East Penn Avenue was struck by a pick-up truck travelling east at 3:40 p.m. The woman was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Two women struck in about two months time on adjacent blocks.
Cleona residents say something needs to be done.
“How many people have to die before something is changed?” Schaeffer said.
‘Sandwiched between no-man’s land’
Both incidents are still under investigation, Cleona Borough Police Chief Jeffrey Farneski said.
While the two recent pedestrian crashes have shaken Cleona residents, they are part of a pattern of similar incidents on that stretch of road over the years. In 2018, a pedestrian crossing in the 400 block of Route 422 was struck by a car, and another pedestrian was struck in 2015 in the 200 block of Route 422.
“Speed is a factor in a lot of these accidents, clearly,” Farneski said.
The volume of traffic is also an issue, Farneski said. A PennDOT official recently told him about 18,000 vehicles travel the road daily.
“There are certain times of day that it’s like a highway,” Farneski said.
The road stretches across the state, and is used by a lot of Lebanon County commuters to get to Hershey and back. Heading west from the city of Lebanon, Route 422 passes through commercial areas before abruptly coming to Cleona, where houses and businesses line the street.
Coming from Palmyra heading east, the road passes through mostly farmland before hitting Annville, where traffic slows down to 25 miles per hour and the shoulders shrink.
Once past the town, 422 opens up again, with a lane of traffic on either side of a center turning lane.
In Cleona, however, each direciton of traffic has a turning lane in the center, with the lane of travel closest to the shoulder.
Some residents say they get the impression that the wider roadway in front of their houses encourages drivers to go faster. And the fact that their neighborhood is surrounded by commercial areas doesn’t help, Cleona resident Phil Noel said.
“We’re kind of sandwiched between no-man’s land, if you will,” Noel said. “There’s really no slowing effect between the outskirts of Lebanon and the middle of Cleona.”
Noel stopped parking his car on Route 422 after one of his vehicles was totaled while it sat in front of his house. Other residents said they also don’t feel safe parking on the shoulder.
People seem to zip past their homes without really realizing they’re even driving through a residential area, several residents said.
“It’s like a drag race out there,” said ZIna Beth Rabold, who has lived at the intersection of Center Street and 422 for about a year.
“What the answer is, I don’t know,” Rabold said. “But something needs to be done.”
Borough looking at solutions
After Bordner died in November, Cleona Borough Council asked manager Kerry Rohland to work on finding ways to make the road safer for pedestrians.
Rohland recently had a meeting with Farneski, a council member, a county official and a PennDOT official to discuss potential solutions to improve safety on 422.
The process is still in the preliminary stage, Rohland said, and will likely be discussed at the next borough council meeting.
Short-term solutions could include increasing street lighting in the area or adding signs warning drivers to slow down, Farneski said.
Changing the configuration of the road or adding traffic islands could be potential long-term actions, Farneski said.
In the meantime, residents on Route 422 want to feel safe walking out of their homes.
“Drive through it like it’s your neighborhood,” Noel urged drivers. “Because it’s mine.”
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