Bike route extension proposal unveiled in McKees Rocks area
May 23, 2013 9:45 AM
Bill Edmonds of Robinson puts on his gear as he prepares to leave the event announcing the plan to extend a bike trail from McKees Rocks through Coraopolis. Mr. Edmonds stopped at the McKees Rocks event on his way to his Downtown job.
By Len Barcousky Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
What's happening in Confluence and Meyersdale can be repeated in McKees Rocks and on Neville Island, according to bicycling advocate Mary Shaw.
Confluence and Meyersdale are among the "Trail Towns" along the Great Allegheny Passage that have gained new businesses serving bikers and hikers traveling from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.
McKees Rocks, Stowe, Neville and Coraopolis could benefit similarly from development of safer routes for cyclists and pedestrians through their communities, she said.
Those borough and townships are along the path of the proposed Ohio River Trail that would link Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Heritage Trail to the start of the Montour Trail. "To encourage bicycle touring you want to find ways to connect trails," Ms. Shaw said. "Cyclists want to start somewhere, ride out and come back along another route."
Since the Montour Trail already has a spur to Pittsburgh International Airport, a connection between the trailhead of the Montour Trail and Pittsburgh would allow airline passengers to cycle from their planes into the city, she said.
Following a year of planning that involved 60 public officials, Allegheny County recently unveiled a proposed on-road route for a bicycle route extension. The plan would improve recreation opportunities for residents at the same time as it offers economic benefits for existing and future businesses along the way, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said last week.
"This will be a huge help to this community in its revitalization efforts," Paulette Beliunas said.
She is office manager for the McKees Rocks Community Development Corp.
Her boss, Taris A. Vrcek, agreed.
He described the suburban communities along the Ohio River as one of the region's best-kept secrets.
Stowe Commissioner Cheryl McDermott predicted business growth along both the main biking route as well as the proposed cycling and pedestrian loops within municipalities.
"This plan will bring more people into our communities to see what we are about," she said. "It is the missing link."
"Bicycles mean business," Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, said. On-street bike lanes encourage people to stop and shop at local stores, he said.
The most controversial portion of the plan calls for shared-use lanes on West Carson Street through Pittsburgh's western neighborhoods. PennDOT's plans for reconstruction of the busy thoroughfare call for creation of a 14-foot-wide shared-use lane.
That stretch of road would be marked with new road signs and pavement markings, known as "sharrows," to remind motorists of the presence of cyclists.
The shared-use section would extend from the West End Circle to Stanhope Street.
Mr. Bricker questioned whether a shared lane would provide enough safety.
Surveys have indicated that residents would prefer separate bike lanes on West Carson Street, an improvement he said would make that portion of the route secure and pleasant for riders from ages 8 to 80.
Starting at McKees Rocks the bike path would make use of quieter streets, passing through the borough's Bottoms neighborhood via River Avenue and Helen Street. The route would then rejoin Island Avenue and cross the Fleming Park Bridge to Neville Road on Neville Island. Cyclists and walkers would then use the Neville Island Bridge to cross over the back channel of the Ohio River into Coraopolis.
The trail eventually would connect to the Montour Trail via a new $15 million county park.
No timetable has been set for putting up new signs and designating bike lanes. Beginning in late summer, the county, Friends of the Riverfront and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council will begin working with the townships and boroughs to help them raise funds to carry out elements of the plan.