Walk Bike Shaler seeks grant for feasibility study

Sunday, September 29, 2019 | 12:01 AM


Nearly two years ago, Chris Chirdon of Walk Bike Shaler presented his plans during a commissioners committee meeting for partnering with the township to improve Mt. Royal Boulevard’s pedestrian and bike infrastructure.

Since then, Township Manager Tim Rogers has written a letter supporting Walk Bike Shaler discussing the potential improvements with PennDOT, who owns the road, according to Chirdon.

“Just saying that we want amenities isn’t enough for them (PennDOT) to make big changes. They want to see a more robust planning process to see what type of amenities are able to be applied to this area,” Chris Watts, Walk Bike Shaler treasurer, said during a Sept. 24 township committee meeting.

PennDOT officials recommended that Walk Bike Shaler pursue a feasibility study to determine the amenities it should seek for the project it has dubbed #betterboulevard.

Walk Bike Shaler hopes to apply for an Allegheny County Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund Grant for a feasibility study that the organization estimates will cost less than $100,000. The commissioners will decide at its 7 p.m. Oct. 8 meeting if it will sponsor Walk Bike Shaler’s grant application.

“We are willing to do as much work as you are comfortable with. The one thing that I don’t want you to feel is that we are somehow divesting you or arresting control of it from you; I want to make sure you understand that we’re helping you,” Chirdon said.

“It’s really just understanding what we can do to improve the streetscape. It could be sidewalks, it could be bike facilities, it could be other things, it could be streetscape amenities, just having a study to better help inform us,” Watts said.

Walk Bike Shaler wants to make the community “safe and welcoming for all,” regardless of whether one has visible or invisible mobility needs.

Chirdon and Watts agree that the study would gather public input from business owners, residents and other stakeholders. Watts said that a Shaler Area School District representative is interested in the study. Chirdon said that Shaler Area Rotarians reacted with “exuberance” when he shared the plans with them.

Commissioner Thomas McElhone thinks PennDOT should devote money to infrastructure.

“Look at the condition of Mt. Royal Boulevard, the condition of Route 8. State funded properties. Mt. Royal, you got storm sewers that are collapsing. You’ve got potholes the entire length of the boulevard. I mean, that’s the main drag through Shaler, discounting Route 8. The condition is deplorable. You drive down Route 8, the median is completely gone, and it’s been that way for years.”

Rogers said that available funds are multimodal grants, not for paving. He said that PennDOT is working in the South and West Hills this year.

In other news, residents Susan and Vince Lowe of Marzolf Road spoke about the danger their daughters face when crossing the street to enter and exit their school bus. The Lowes have noticed people speeding and texting while driving on a blind curve across from their residence.

“It’s very stressful every day when they (my daughters) get off the bus for fear that they might be hit. I have noticed that several houses along Marzolf lately have put up signs for vehicles to slow down and I also noticed them on Wible (Run Road),” Susan Lowe said.

Rogers said he will ask the police department to provide additional enforcement of the area, and he is requesting that neighbors report repeat traffic violators. The township may paint white lines on the roadway, as well.