Kittanning Council looks at options for bridge traffic during repairs
Since repair work began in March on the Kittanning Citizens Bridge, business owners say they are being hurt by detours that are rerouting traffic — and customers — away from downtown.
Now, Kittanning Council wants to meet with PennDOT officials to see whether there might be a better solution than closing the lane of the bridge that brings traffic into town.
PennDOT devised the one-way traffic flow pattern after conducting a study and getting input from emergency personnel and borough officials, according to Police Chief Bruce Mathews.
But Council President Randy Cloak said options his board would like considered are a temporary traffic light system on both sides of the bridge — allowing for alternating direction of traffic — or opening both lanes for limited times during the day.
“If they can pay someone to sit under the bridge, they can surely figure out a way for traffic to go across in two different directions,” Cloak said, referring to the hiring of a boatman for rescue in case a worker falls in the Allegheny River during the project.
The PennDOT repair project on the 82-year-old bridge has limited traffic to one lane out of town until October. Traffic into Kittanning is being rerouted along Butler Road to Franklin Hill Road, past Franklin Village Mall and Hilltop Plaza and onto Route 422. Traffic can enter Kittanning by taking Route 422 Exit B onto South Water Street.
Fred Bonello, owner of Dizzy Lizzie's restaurant on 33 Market St., said customers seemed to have been affected more at the beginning while adjusting to the traffic pattern.
“The first week of the project was terrifying,” Bonello said.
But lately, business has picked up and Bonello thinks people may have gotten used to the idea that they have to drive an extra few miles from West Kittanning to Market Street.
He's not sure whether there is a better solution out there for routing traffic during the project's duration, and he's pretty sure that having a traffic light at both ends of the bridge would be a bad idea.
“Do you know where this line of traffic would be?” he said. “It would go past the courthouse up Route 85.”
A couple of blocks away at the 700 Shop at 117 Market St., owner Turney Luke said sales have been down because of the detour.
“We want to remind customers that we're still here,” he said.
Despite the disruption, Luke acknowledges that the project is necessary and said it's important for people to remain patient — especially with drivers who are unfamiliar with the temporary changes.
He said that residents and businesses have survived the ordeal of past bridge closures.
But he's concerned with project work crews parking heavy equipment on the sidewalks at the corner of Riverside Park and the bridge, potentially breaking up the sidewalk and blocking pedestrian access.
Mathews told council on Monday that he has been working with PennDOT officials to make sure no heavy equipment is brought into town during borough events that feature entertainment.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.