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Make Mount Royal Boulevard more pedestrian-friendly, Shaler group asks

| Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, 8:39 p.m.

Walk Bike Shaler is striving to make Mt. Royal Boulevard safer for pedestrians.

At a recent Shaler commissioners' subcommittee meeting, Chris Chirdon of Walk Bike Shaler outlined his group's goals of collaborating with the township on a complete streets plan for the boulevard.

“A complete street is really about accessibility for visually impaired people, or individuals with wheelchairs, mobility scooters — sure bikes are a part of it, pedestrians are a part of it, transit riders,” Chirdon said.

“It's a complete street. Something that's useful for everybody. Right now the Mt. Royal corridor has limited use for pedestrians. It's primarily a transit vehicle corridor.”

Since 1997, Shaler has had 115 accidents involving pedestrians, 36 percent of which occurred along Mt. Royal Boulevard, Chirdon said, citing PennDOT and other data. Mt. Royal Boulevard is a state road.

Chirdon said a more accessible Mt. Royal Boulevard with a bike lane or sidewalk could connect schools, parks, athletic fields, fire companies, churches, and the Shaler North Hills Library.

“We haven't worked on a plan,” Chirdon said, adding he wants to know the supervisors are willing to work with the organization.

In addition to seeking the township's support for a complete streets plan, Walk Bike Shaler wants the township to support a complete streets ordinance and support requests for grant funding.

Chirdon said such funding could come from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission's Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside program, Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund grants.

“Typically, all of the grants that we work with require a matching grant, 50-50, but some level of matching grant,” Tim Rogers, township manager, said.

“I don't think there's going to be any opposition to trying to move forward.”

Rogers mentioned current spending on two Kiwanis Park projects, a McElheny Road plan in conjunction with PennDOT, and the $1 million Fall Run Park renovations.

“There's always a financial aspect when you want to move ahead, because just the study part of a project is very expensive, it requires tax dollars, so we have to think about those kinds of things,” Commissioner Lori Mizgorski said.

Thirty-two people attended the meeting and many commented during the public forum.

Resident Julie Loesch said she sees crowded Oakland and Lawrenceville bike lanes when commuting to Duquesne University and is concerned about a complete street fitting along the boulevard.

“You're going to end up sharing the highway with cars and bikes. I don't see that we have a way to do sidewalks. The bikes would be on one side,” Rogers said.

Jane Fisher spoke about wishing her children could have walked unaccompanied when they were younger.

“I always had to walk them. It wasn't really safe for them. … I am thinking, looking forward, it's good to have a plan,” she said.

Jen Cochran counted 117 days within the last year that children were playing in Wetzel Road, near her house.

“I encourage you to go take a walk at your lunch, look at all of the kids in the summer that are walking in a super dangerous road,” she told the board.

Jon Lucadamo, who lives on Mt. Royal, said he is teaching his children that they have to ride in the car to go someplace to walk.

“I'm too choked up. It's a big issue. Safety of the kids. Safety of the community. Emissions. Health,” he said.

Board Vice President William Cross and Commissioner James Boyle asked Chirdon to research and present them with case studies of municipalities similar to the township that have implemented complete streets plans..

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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