NEW CUMBERLAND - City officials unveiled a consultant's recommendations Wednesday for making the Station Hill sidewalk safer for pedestrians.
The preliminary engineering report, prepared by KCI Technologies of Morgantown, calls for relocating the sidewalk, placing it on the current embankment with a fence and grade separation that would keep vehicular traffic - particularly heavy trucks - safely away from pedestrians.
KCI's Eric Lord, senior landscape architect and project manager, said there'd be two well-defined, handicap accessible crosswalks - one at the railroad tracks, the other at North Court Street. The idea, he said, would be to funnel foot traffic to either of the crosswalks.
ENGINEERS REPORT — KCI Technologies' Eric Lord discussed a preliminary engineering report for rerouting the Station Hill sidewalk with a New Cumberland resident Wednesday. - Linda Harris
"What we'd do, essentially, is create a switchback across the hillside," he said, noting the preliminary design calls for ADA ramps, crosswalk markings, appropriate signs and lights.
Lord, though, stressed that no decisions have been made. Rather, he said at this point they just want to give residents an idea of what's planned in terms of "designs, constraints and opportunities." Wednesday's workshop was designed to gauge public reaction and seek input, albeit unofficially, Lord said.
"The preliminary engineering report just gives the city the tools it needs to go out and request funding," he said.
Mayor Richard Blackwell, meanwhile, said that they had to close the sidewalk because of the risk to pedestrians. The road is narrow in the Station Hill area, he said, and trucks travelling on state Route 2 often run up on the sidewalk.
"What really got me started on it was when I saw a young lady pushing a baby stroller one day with a baby in it and two little ones walking behind her," he said, pointing out that either or both of the children could have inadvertently found themselves in the path of a passing truck. "We need to do something. It's not safe, it's just not wide enough. And for people with handicaps, it doesn't have the right grade."
Blackwell said KCI's proposal would make it easier, and safer, for pedestrians to navigate Station Hill, and at the same time would alleviate drainage problems on Second Avenue from Porter Street south. While storm drains easily accommodate normal rainfall, during heavy downpours debris from higher up the hill frequently washes down, blocking drains and causing water to flood yards and basements in the area.
Blackwell also pointed out KCI's recommendations include widening that stretch of state Route 2 to make it easier for trucks to make the bend, but Blackwell said that would have to be a state highway project.
While the changes wouldn't come cheap, Blackwell said the city is pursuing all available funding options and said he "fully intends to go downstate" to meet with state highway officials in hopes of interesting them in the road widening portion of the project.