Improvements to deadly cloverleaf will come too late for trucker

| 8/1/2005

Plans are in the works to improve a Pennsylvania interchange where 70,000 vehicles a day are using roads designed for 25,000. But the work – scheduled to begin in 2007 – will come too late for 43-year-old trucker Kenneth Wallace.

Wallace died at the cloverleaf joining Routes 518 and 15 during rush-hour traffic Thursday morning when an elderly driver veered her four-wheeler out of line on a ramp, drove around a yield sign and into oncoming traffic. Wallace, a driver for Giant Food Stores who lived in Carlisle, PA, was able to swerve so he only side-swiped the four-wheeler, rather than hitting it straight on.

The 74-year-old driver was not injured and was not taken to a hospital. The trucker, however burned to death when his tractor split from his trailer, slammed into an overpass support and burst into flames. The Cumberland County coroner told local media that Wallace was burned beyond recognition and dental records had to be used to confirm his identity.

The vice president for Giant Food Stores told The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, PA, that Wallace had been driving for the company for five years and had “an impeccable” driving record.

Police are still investigating, but Friday, July 29, officers said the district attorney was considering filing charges against the four-wheeler.

In the meantime, plans are moving forward for an $85.8 million construction project to revamp the 60-year-old interchange.

A spokesman for the state Department of Transportation told The Sentinel in Carlisle that the July 28 fatality and one in 2003 that also involved a big rig were both due to “stacking” of traffic on the interchange ramp.

“At the time (60 years ago), that interchange was built to handle 25,000 vehicles a day,” Mike Crochunis told The Sentinel.

Today, 70,000 vehicles use the cloverleaf every day and 24 percent of them are big trucks, according to PennDOT. Consequently, a 10-year project was begun in the late 1990s to reconfigure the interchange for Routes 581 and 15.

The state is still in the process of buying rights of way for the project, which will eliminate the ramp that the elderly driver was stuck on when she decided to dart out of line and into the highway traffic.