New Cumberland looking at pedestrian safety

NEW CUMBERLAND – New Cumberland city officials say they have received approval from the state to apply for a grant to make Station Hill safer for pedestrians.

The $250,000 grant would cover the cost of relocating the sidewalk that parallels state Route 2 on Station Hill, Mayor Richard Blackwell said. The sidewalk, and the steps leading up to the Hancock County Courthouse, have been closed since June because of deteriorating conditions and ongoing concerns about heavy truck traffic.

Trucks often have a difficult time negotiating the sharp turn at the bottom of Station Hill and the narrow stretch of Route 2 on the hill, their tires sometimes running up on the sidewalk. Truck traffic is particularly heavy there because the road is a state route.

Blackwell said he has until March 15 to submit the grant application. The city of New Cumberland would be required to supply 20 percent of the funding for the project.

“What gives this greater weight is the fact that the project creates a safe, handicap-accessible sidewalk from Ridge Avenue to downtown,” Blackwell said.

City officials have a preliminary design from KCI Technologies of Morgantown to submit with the grant application. The plan calls for rerouting the sidewalk away from its current position adjacent to the road. Instead, the sidewalk would run at an appropriate grade from Taylor Street south to the Pride Park steps, and then back to Route 2 but below the current sidewalk, creating a “switchback” effect, Blackwell said.

The plan also includes two well-defined, handicap-accessible crosswalks – one at the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill and the other at North Court Street – as a way of funneling pedestrian traffic to the crosswalks.

Foot traffic is one thing the city can do something about. The same can’t be said for truck traffic, Blackwell said, because the Station Hill road is a state route and, therefore, the purview of the state.

“We’ve been trying to get something done with Route 2 in New Cumberland for years,” he said. “If we can replace that sidewalk, the state would inherit the (old) sidewalk, and they could do whatever they want.”

Councilman Shawn Marks, who sits on the street committee, said widening Route 2 on Station Hill is a project that is long overdue and deserves the attention of the state.

“It was made for traffic in the 1940s, not 2013. We’ve got a real problem here,” he said.

Marks plans to take his concerns to Hancock County commissioners on Thursday at their regular meeting.

“The truck traffic on Route 2 is going to continue to grow (because) you’ve got all those industries up and down the river,” he said. “That traffic’s not going to get any less.”

Both Marks and Blackwell said they want to meet with state highway officials in Charleston to discuss funding options for a road widening project. Marks said he may do that as soon as Feb. 17 and 18, when the West Virginia Municipal League holds its Mid-Winter Municipal Day in Charleston.

New Cumberland resident Linda McNeil said she is working with the street committee to find a solution to the Route 2 truck traffic issue.

“Our aim is to show that this is not a new problem. This is an ongoing problem that we would like to find a happy resolution to,” McNeil said.

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