Proposed road connecting Route 30 with downtown Irwin has critics
The state's proposal to build a road connecting Route 30 with downtown Irwin ran into stiff opposition Thursday from a group of business owners who contend it would adversely impact Irwin Park, hurt traffic flow in the business district and cost more than it's worth.
Ten people attending an Irwin Business & Professional Association meeting voted to oppose any connector from Route 30 to Pennsylvania Avenue, while only one was in favor and four abstained in a straw poll.
The IBPA, which has 20 to 25 active members, would not take an official stance on the issue, said member Michael Pochan.
“I can't see it being worth the money,” said Pochan, a former Irwin councilman.
PennDOT is considering building a connector ramp from the westbound lanes of Route 30 into downtown Irwin as part of the $100 million renovation of the highway from 10th Street in Irwin to Route 48 in North Versailles, Allegheny County.
The ramp would travel over a small stream along the park, skirt the hillside to avoid the ball field and playground, then cut through a parking lot before connecting with Pennsylvania Avenue.
The road is proposed for a lightly used section of the park, Scott Thompson-Graves, project manager for Whitman, Requardt & Associates of Cranberry, the project's consulting engineer, said when the plans were on display in October. The idea for a direct connector came from public input, he said.
Putting a road through the park where children play has drawn opposition.
“I'm against the bridge (ramp) going through the park,” said Ed Sam, an association member.
A connector ramp from Route 30 “will be a detriment to the small businesses” in Irwin and not worth “the chaos it will create,” said Carl Stillitano, owner of CPS Photography.
In response, PennDOT said it has not yet designed the access road. Before moving forward on the design, “We will be working with the borough officials to assure that we will be delivering something that the public wants and needs,” said Valerie Petersen, a spokeswoman for PennDOT District 12.
The maps on PennDOT's Route 30 corridor website make it difficult to determine the exact location where the ramp from westbound Route 30 would connect with Pennsylvania Avenue. The website shows “conceptual plans” of the route, Petersen said.
Maj. Eric Gass, commander of the J. Howard Snyder Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 781 of North Huntingdon, does not want PennDOT to build it through Irwin's veterans memorial at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Main Street.
“The monument has been there for over a half a century. I think it would be a travesty to move that monument. Everyone at the VFW Post is against it,” Gass said, estimating the cost of moving the monument could be $100,000.
Instead of spending money on a ramp, it would be cheaper to improve signage from the Tenth Street intersection with Route 30 into the downtown area, Gass said.
“We will make every effort to avoid sensitive areas during the design which, in this case, would certainly include the veteran's memorial,” Petersen said.
Giving the downtown business district a direct connection to Route 30 drew some support.
“I agree it would be more helpful to have better access, but not a ramp through the park,” said Amanda Maderas, owner of Manda's Curvy Boutique and association secretary.
A connector would make it easier to get downtown from Route 30, said Allie Leng, a marketing specialist for Duncan Financial Group of Irwin. Leng said she drives to work from Pittsburgh's South Hills and has narrowly missed being hit while traveling from the eastbound lanes of Route 30 to Main Street.
Borough council has not discussed the proposed connector; nor has it taken a vote on the matter.
Gail Macioce, a member of the association and borough council, declined Thursday to offer an opinion on the proposed ramp, saying she wanted more information before taking a position.
“I can see the concerns are deep,” Macioce said.
Mayor William Hawley said he favored the ramp from Route 30 to downtown Irwin.
“I think it is a great thing for the borough. It will make it a lot easier for people to get from Route 30 to our downtown area,” Hawley said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.