Municipal Law Alert

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Rules that Sight Distance Measurements and Traffic Studies are Exempt from Right-To-Know Law if They are Part of a Safety Study

On November 1,2010, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that sight distance measurements and traffic studies are exempt from Right-To-Know-Law if they are part of, or will become part of, a Safety Study.

Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) provides that “a record that is in possession of a Commonwealth agency or local agency shall be presumed to be a public record, unless the record is exempt” under the statute. 65 P.S. § 67.102. RTKL does allow for exemptions from disclosing certain documents retained by a Commonwealth or local agency.

Further, Section 3754 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S. § 3754 outlines another such exemption where “in-depth accident reports, safety studies, and their constituent materials are confidential.” Therefore “Safety Studies” as described in 75 Pa.C.S. § 3754 of the vehicle code, as well as the information, reports, and records used in preparation of those Safety Studies are exempt under RTKL disclosure.

In the present case, Department of Transportation v. Office of Open Records,- the Department of Transportation did NOT carry its burden of showing that the requested sight distance measurements and traffic studies fell within the above-mentioned statutory privilege. The Department of Transportation’s affidavit did not aver that the specific sight distance measurements and traffic studies requested were the type of information that has either been used in formulating Safety Studies, or that it would be used in formulating a future Safety Study. As such the department did not have a privilege and was required to turn over the “sight distance measurements and traffic studies” to the requester.

Therefore, Safety Studies are privileged under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3754 of the Vehicle Code, but sight distance measurements and traffic study information are only exempt from production under R TKL where the agency can show that the information has been used or will be used in a Safety Study.

For further information please contact:

Vincent M. Pompo
Voice (610) 430-8000
Fax (610) 692-6210

Lauren K. Dentone
Voice (610) 430-8000
Fax (610) 692-6210