North Park project expected to generate short-term inconveniences, long-term benefits
Bicyclists, runners and motorists have concerns about the plan for North Park trail improvements along Ingomar Road in McCandless but those attending a meeting Tuesday ultimately agreed that the proposed changes will improve safety on the popular trail.
PennDOT and Allegheny County parks officials announced details of the plan to widen the Lake Shore Loop Trail portion along Ingomar Road, which runs along of the south side of North Park Lake, to make room for a designated bike trail and pedestrian path.
“Overall I think they've done a good job,” Bill Moul, 74, of Marshall Township said at the public meeting about the project at the North Park Rose Barn. “They're making a good situation out of a crummy one.”
The shared bike and pedestrian path that runs along Ingomar Road ranges from 6 to 8 feet wide, and trail congestion often pushes bicyclists onto the busy road, which is a safety issue for park officials.
“(Safety) is really what this is all about,” said Ronald C. Schipani, capital projects and program manager for the Allegheny County Parks Foundation.
The plans for the trail redevelopment will widen the road 8 feet in the narrowest sections and create a one-way, 5-foot bike path that will run between the road and the pedestrian path, which will be 7 to 9 feet wide.
The road will be taken down to a single lane with flaggers during nonpeak hours and closed at night for one to two months this summer.
The southern portion of the trail will be closed to pedestrians and bikers for the duration of construction.
At Tuesday's meeting, runners requested signs along the entire trail alerting users about the closed section, so runners in the last mile of the five-mile loop wouldn't be surprised by a turnaround that would add 4 miles to their run.
Ingomar Road repeatedly was identified as a top safety priority in studies done in 1990, 2000, 2003 and 2012, but a lack of funding made the road a long-term goal.
However the state transportation bill passed in November helped fund the PennDOT initiative to pave Ingomar Road, and county parks officials took the opportunity to widen the trail, which created what all parties called a “win-win situation.”
“I don't know that we could have gotten this without that transportation bill getting passed,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who stopped by the meeting. “This is an expensive project, but it's also an important one.”
The estimated project cost is $2 million. PennDOT will contribute roughly $1 million, and the Allegheny County Parks Foundation and Allegheny County each will contribute $500,000 to the project.
Allegheny County parks director Andrew Baechle said the work will affect some of the annual races that take place on the trail, and attempts will be made to work things out.
“But in the long run, we'll have a better place for everyone,” he said.
Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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