For many years, hundreds of Saxton-Broad Top area residents have been making daily trips up and over Route 164, situated in both Bedford and Blair counties. The trips have been for work in many Blair County factories, physician offices and retail locations.
Known by a number of names including Tussey, Fredericksburg and Cove Mountain, the three-mile journey up the Bedford County side during the winter months has not always been pleasant for motorists. The Bedford County side of Route 164 had always been, until a couple years ago, maintained by Bedford County PennDOT.
The highway is now maintained by Blair County PennDOT officials. The change has many motorists who use the roadway questioning why such a change was made and why it does not seem to receive the same attention that it did before.
Hollidaysburg PennDOT District 9 headquarters public information officer (PIO) Tara Callahan-Henry said Blair County has been maintaining the Liberty Township side of Route 164 for the past several years in order that one truck can service the entire length to create a consistent level of service from end to end. The county line is at the top of mountain, she said, which in the past created inconsistencies with conditions on either side of the top depending when the truck from either side serviced the road.
Other factors were the miles each truck has to service, length of time to service the routes assigned to each truck and number of trucks at each stockpile in the event of breakdowns.
In the past, there have been several motor vehicle accidents on both sides of Route 164 due to poor roadway conditions. There have also been many motorists stranded both on and off the roadway until help arrived.
One of the most recent cases where weather and poor roadway conditions caused problems was just after the first of the New Year when a Saxton Fire Company ambulance en route with a patient bound for Conemaugh Nason Medical Center experienced problems. At the time, a snowstorm in the area made conditions difficult.
The ambulance and its crew began its ascent up Route 164 from Route 26. The operator had the ambulance in four-wheel drive prior ascending Route 164.
Halfway up the mountain, the ambulance encountered a snow-covered roadway with evidence in tire tracks in the snow of numerous vehicles nearly sliding off the roadway. Resources from PennDOT were immediately alerted. Once the ambulance crested the mountain, another motor vehicle crashed into the guiderails near the Game Commission facility. The driver alerted Bedford County 911 personnel to the crash and prepared to check on occupant conditions.
The driver of the car feverishly spun into reverse, nearly missing the ambulance. County Control was again alerted that road conditions were treacherous.
Apparently, road conditions were not optimal on the Blair County side either, but improved slightly once in Martinsburg. It wasn’t until Route 36 that conditions improved drastically.
Upon the crew’s return, they discovered the mountain was in worse condition than their trek to the medical center. Other motor vehicles were off the roadway and in the ditch.
County Control was again notified that the roadway had not received PennDOT resources and advised they were closing down the mountain from the Blair County side. Additional resources from both the Saxton and Martinsburg fire police units were requested to shut down both sides of the mountain until it was plowed and treated.
It was reported that at one time there were nearly 10 vehicles in a wide spot at the top of the mountain and an ambulance that was out of service due to road conditions.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this news article is not to discredit PennDOT or the fine work they do. But rather to point out that motorists traveling Route 164 have a genuine concern about winter road conditions their and their safety.