During peak times, the drive-thru line at Chick-fil-A sprawls out onto to the busy thoroughfare that is North Atherton Street, causing a potentially dangerous situation for both people in line and those trying to navigate the busy street.
While in line for the popular fast food restaurant, chicken-seeking drivers are sometimes stopped still, waiting to enter the drive-thru while unsuspecting motorists try to navigate around the hazard.
The dining room at Chick-fil-A is closed because of the coronavirus, so drive-thru and curbside pickup are the only options for people looking to satisfy their chicken cravings. Even with employees out in the parking lot working to get customers through the drive-thru as fast as possible, the line still backs out to the street during peak dining times.
Patton Township officials and restaurant management have worked together to help ease some of the safety problems. The township made it illegal to make a left turn into the location.
The township and the restaurant split the cost of a message board outside the restaurant for the month of December to make the public aware that a left turn is illegal. Even with these measures in place, the line in the right-turn lane is still an issue.
“It is really hit or miss, which is the thing that makes it difficult,” township Manager Doug Erickson said.
He added that it is hard to do much else without impacting the business, “which is what we don’t want to do.”
“We have been talking with PennDOT, the Chick-fil-A franchisee and even Chick-fil-A corporate, trying to figure out what we can do,” Erickson said.
“It is an ongoing issue.”
Erickson said he thinks eliminating the left turn has made things safer for traffic on North Atherton.
“That is where we were having the real safety issues with people getting frustrated waiting to turn left in and out and making unsafe maneuvers. For what it is worth, it has made it somewhat safer having everyone over there in the right lane, but it has created more backup in the right lane,” Erickson said.
The restaurant is working with its corporate offices to see if they can find a solution, such as adding a second drive-thru lane, Erickson said.
In December, Patton Township police did a targeted enforcement of the illegal left turn into Chick-fil-A for six hours on two separate days. It resulted in 44 citations issued for an illegal left turn, Chief Tyler Jolley said in an email to The Gazette. Despite the issue with the long drive-thru lines, Jolley said police responded to four crashes at the location in 2019 and the same number again 2020.
His officers have been out on scene to direct traffic when things get a little hectic and when personnel are not busy with other calls.
“Our officers have spent many hours directing traffic there to help with the issues, but obviously we can’t be there all day, every day,” Jolley said.
He said they have not billed Chick-fil-A for this, and his officers are working to keep the pubic as safe as possible.
“Our goal is to keep everyone safe. Often our officers are responding to complaints we receive from the public via our Centre County Emergency Communications Center. We have not billed the business for our officers’ time to this point,” Jolley said.
The township will continue to work with the business to find a safe solution, he said.
“We have done press releases and utilized social media to bring attention to the traffic congestion and issues at that location. The township also chipped money in to place a message board sign there to bring awareness. The sign was at that location during the whole month of December. We are continually working with the business owner, Chick-fil-A corporate office, PennDOT — it’s a state route so it is their road — and the elected officials in Patton Township,” Jolley said.
Vincent Corso is the senior staff writer for The Centre County Gazette.