The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 22, 2014

PennDOT plan for freeway barriers falls short of mark

By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor

- — Here are some thoughts from a guy who is very glad to see that PennDOT has finally agreed to put up barriers on part of the Shenango Valley Freeway under the Oakland Avenue Viaduct.

Unfortunately it came too late for three area residents who were killed there last year.

I recently had lunch with Kim Zdelar, whose world was turned upside down when her husband John was killed in the crash when a reportedly speeding car driven by Sharon football player Corey Swartz crossed the center line and collided with a pickup driven by John. Corey and teammate Evan Gill were also killed.

I had never met Kim before, but certainly sympathized with her plight of trying to keep her family together after the tragedy. I had helped her son and a neighbor boy at the crash scene and tried to help John, who died later in the hospital.

Sadly, if PennDOT had installed barriers before as they had in some other areas of the freeway, John Zdelar and probably the two players would still be alive.

City officials had reportedly asked for barriers after earlier accidents along that stretch, but PennDOT declined.

However, for some reason the barriers are going to stop before entrances to businesses on the south side of the freeway. While I can understand that the businesses might like people to be able to turn across the freeway, it is a very dangerous situation.

I have personally seen a few close calls there with cars pulling in front of others. And it would be easy for distracted drivers – like people talking on a cell phone – to plow into the back of a car stopped to make a left turn, since people fly around the curve right before the turn area.

 For safety’s sake, it doesn’t take that long to circle back to those businesses. After all, the barriers block left turns into businesses in Hermitage and drivers simply circle back.

Then again, maybe if people are killed there, PennDOT will then put up more barriers.

If that happens, hopefully they will have a good explanation for families of those people. I don’t think there are any explanations that would help the Zdelar family who lost a loved one and the family breadwinner.

• On a much happier note, there are a lot of feel-good stories that come out of the Winter Olympics. The effort of our American athletes can install pride in every citizen.

While some of our athletes fall short of the medal stand, the chance to just compete on such a level is a wonderful experience for them all.

Even the pain of heart-breaking losses like that of the U.S. women’s hockey team in the gold medal game to Canada, will eventually subside and the players will understand the great run that they made.

They will never forget the loss, but they will always remember the great feeling that representing your country in the Olympics can bring.

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday for The Opinion Page. He can be reached at