Council to consider banning 'Jake brakes' in Chambersburg

January 23, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The streets of Chambersburg could be quieter and the traffic slower if the borough council approves an amendment that bans engine retarders and takes up Council President William McLaughlin's idea to install speed humps on some streets.

The council voted Monday to advertise an amendment to the noise ordinance it adopted last year to ban the use of the engine retarders, sometimes referred to as "Jake brakes," on trucks. A vote is scheduled Feb. 12.

When the noise ordinance was adopted it was "our intention the whole time" to later amend the ordinance to ban the engine retarders, Councilman Heath Talhelm said.

McLaughlin said the borough did not have the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's permission to ban the use of the devices on state roads in the borough when it passed the ordinance. That approval has now been received to post signs banning their use on U.S. 30, U.S. 11, Pa. 997 and other state-controlled roads that pass through town, he said.


Engine retarders on the diesel engines of big trucks change the compression of the engine, releasing compressed air in the cylinders and causing the vehicle to slow without applying the brakes. While saving wear and tear on the brakes of big rigs, it produces a loud growling noise that lasts several seconds.

If the amendment is approved, the borough could post signs banning the retarders within its boundaries on both state roads and borough streets, McLaughlin said.

The council president said he would also like to see speed humps to bring down the speed of vehicles on streets such as Edgar Avenue, where he lives.

"I've had people clocked at 70 mph on Edgar Avenue," McLaughlin said. The speed limit on the street is 35 mph, he said.

"Speed humps are an approved PennDOT term" with engineering specifications, McLaughlin said, and are different than the speed bumps that motorists regularly encounter in parking lots to slow them down.

"They must be legal, because they're all over State College (Pa.)," McLaughlin said.

The humps are wider than speed bumps, typically 3 to 4 inches high, but 12 to 14 feet wide, according to the Institute of Transportation Engineers. The institute Web site states the humps, normally used in residential areas, have been observed to reduce speeds about 25 percent; reduce traffic an average of 18 percent as motorists look for alternative routes; and reduce collisions by 13 percent.

Councilman Robert Wareham suggested that rumble strips - raised strips or grooves cut into a road surface - would serve the same purpose without posing the potential of damaging a vehicle.

"I personally don't care if someone is speeding and knocks out their front-end alignment," McLaughlin said.

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