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Harmar officials support trails, not bike lanes on Freeport Road

| Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, 9:45 p.m.

The Harmar supervisors said they support the idea of a walking and biking trail through the township, but aren't fans of the idea of bike lanes on Freeport Road.

Supervisor Jerry Chalmers on Thursday said he met with local officials in O'Hara in early October about a proposal to designate a lane in each direction for bicycles along Freeport Road through O'Hara, Blawnox and Harmar.

Harmar Township Secretary Donna Piper said a bicycle advocacy group proposed the bike lanes to PennDOT.

The name of the organization wasn't mentioned Thursday, but the group Bike Pittsburgh on Tuesday posted a call to action on its website for members to make an “11th hour” plea to Blawnox and O'Hara officials to support bike lanes on a “notoriously dangerous” stretch of Freeport Road while PennDOT is in the process of repaving.

The online post does not mention Harmar.

In July and February discussion threads on the Bike Pittsburgh site, bicyclists discussed the possibility of reducing the “4-lane superhighway” stretch of Freeport Road from Blawnox to the Hulton Bridge to one lane in each direction for vehicles and the other lanes for bicycles.

“I have to ride that to get to work, and even though I am doubtful anyone will listen, I just have to find someone to ask why they can't downsize the road and install bike lanes,” said a site member identified only as Ross. “It just seems so ridiculous that there's such a massive artery connecting Blawnox to (Harmar), especially with Rt. 28 right next to it.”

Chalmers said he was concerned about liability to the township if a bicyclist should be injured while using one of the lanes. He also believed the township would be responsible for maintenance and signs.

“I'm against it unless they (PennDOT) are going to put some kind of barrier in,” he said.

Supervisor Pat Janoski noted the bike lanes recently installed in Pittsburgh have been controversial.

A resident at Thursday's meeting said it wasn't sensible to reduce Freeport Road to two lanes when the new Hulton Bridge that is expected to open next week was expanded to four lanes.

Recreation trail gets support

Harmar supervisors agreed to send PennDOT a letter indicating they do not support the bike lanes.

However, the letter notes their support of a recreational trail network along the Allegheny River.

Several groups are working to improve biking and pedestrian access in the region.

The nonprofit Friends of the Riverfront announced last month it was working with a consultant and Norfolk Southern railroad to pursue a potential 29-mile trail from Millvale to Freeport.

And the Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone economic development group this summer announced a $55,000 state grant would be used to plan for a potential bike and pedestrian trail in member towns of O'Hara, Blawnox, Aspinwall, Sharpsburg, Shaler, Etna and Millvale.

That plan could include bike lanes and “sharrows,” or lanes marked for shared bicycle-vehicle use, to connect riverfront trails.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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