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New Kensington fed up with Virginia Drive 'racetrack'

| Friday, July 6, 2012, 12:29 a.m.

For years, Virginia Drive has been a convenient connection between Lower Burrell's Chester Drive and Craigdell Road in New Kensington.

But not for long.

On Tuesday, New Kensington's mayor and council voted to install barriers as a way to reduce speeding in the 40 Acres residential neighborhood, which has many children.

New Kensington City Clerk Dennis Scarpiniti said Tuesday's vote happened after the city received a petition from 31 households along Virginia Drive.

"Speeding has been difficult to enforce," Scarpiniti said. "The petitioners said they are concerned about speeding and their children."

The barriers likely will be installed the week of July 16 at the city line between Edwards and Paige streets, city officials said.

New Kensington Councilman John Regoli Jr. said on Thursday night that city officials will make an effort to notify motorists who use Virginia Drive.

The city will place signs along the street announcing the barriers will be installed.

The signs will go up about a week before the barriers do, he said.

"We're not doing this to penalize the people of Lower Burrell," Regoli said. "This is an effort to ensure the safety of the residents in the 40 Acres (housing development)."

Regoli said New Kensington can't afford to have a police officer on constant patrol along Virginia Drive and argued Lower Burrell can't, either.

Still, Regoli said he's open to having an dialogue with Lower Burrell officials.

New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo said he plans to meet with Lower Burrell officials to talk about alternatives, although he cautioned that he won't settle for anything that fails "to address the concerns of the people living along Virginia Drive."

New Kensington police Chief Tom Klawinski said police are aware of the speeding.

"It's difficult to enforce it at the line," he said.

Lower Burrell police Chief Tim Weitzel said even with the barriers, police and fire units should be able to get where they need to go, he said.

New Ken residents had enough

Mike Langer, who lives along Virginia two houses down from Edwards, was among those who signed the petition given to New Kensington municipal leaders.

"People use this street as a racetrack," he said.

"I am very grateful to the mayor and council," Langer said. "The traffic volume along this street has been increasing. There have been accidents and near-accidents. It's unsafe, and many kids live along Virginia."

Langer said a trickle of traffic turns into a dangerous torrent during the morning and evening rush of people driving home.

He said it's bad from 6:30 a.m. until about 9 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.

"You can't even back out of your driveway to get out," he said. He said there is loud traffic between midnight and 2 a.m. He says people are using Virginia Drive as a way to get to bars.

Langer said New Kensington officials looked at putting a stop sign between Craigdell Road and Edwards Street and other steps, but none seemed to work.

The petition drive was started by New Kensington resident Douglas Valigursky, who wasn't available on Thursday.

His girlfriend, Pam Zelazowski, answered the door at their Virginia Drive home.

"I have a 4-year-old grandson. He can't ride his bike on Virginia," Zelazowski said. "We went down to a side street and he could ride there. It was so much different.

"Virginia Drive is horrible for kids."

She credits Valigursky with getting more 20 mph signs posted along the street, even though some people ignore them.

Steve Adamosky said he signed the petition.

"We all signed it. There are a lot of children in the houses along here and there are a lot of people walking and jogging along the street that people use as a racetrack," Adamosky said.

"People can turn at Edwards and get to Craigdell," Adamosky said. "This is a residential street. People need to get to Craigdell or Leechburg Road. Those are main routes. This street isn't."

Lower Burrell agrees on problem, but not the solution

Virginia Drive continues into Lower Burrell and residents there acknowlege the problem. They're not so keen on the resolution, though.

"People up and down the street have made calls for years about the speeding," said Kathy Pavlik, who has lived along Virginia Drive since the 1980s. "But I think it's asinine to block (Lower Burrell) residents of the street they live on."

"Yes. It's been a shortcut to Craigdell Road. Now they're turning it into a cul-de-sac," said Tom Link, who lives along the drive in Lower Burrell not far from the New Kensington line. "Why not have the two cities talk about it?

"Why not make it one way down, and make a nearby street one way in the opposite direction," Link said. "That way, people could use it one way, at least, and it would reduce traffic.

"I'm at quite a loss by the lack of cooperation," Link said.

"I fully empathize with the people of New Kensington having problems with speeding," Lower Burrell Mayor Donald Kinosz said. "But there are often multiple ways to tackle it. Were alternatives checked out?"

People in Lower Burrell also weren't pleased that New Kensington officials hadn't discussed the change. Pavlik and Mayor Kinosz first heard about from the Valley News Dispatch.

Kinosz had hoped that some New Kensington official would have informed a counterpart from Lower Burrell ahead of the vote.

"We have a regional approach going on here in the Valley," Kinosz said. "Dialogue is important."

Asked for a response to concerns about prior notification, Regoli said, "We're not avoiding communication, but I've been at this long enough to know they can't offer us anything."

Up the street in Lower Burrell, Cliff Hetrick agrees that some people speed "and no one stops for the signs."

He also agrees that are many more cars and trucks using Virginia Drive since his family moved there in 1991.

But Hetrick doesn't agree with New Kensington's solution.

"My wife goes to work at RIDC (Park)," Hetrick said, referring to the industrial park in O'Hara. "We all go to work off Craigdell. My wife is talking about getting a petition. This is very inconsiderate."

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