Improvements to the intersection of Bower Hill and Washington roads are in the works.
On Tuesday, Mt. Lebanon Commission voted to award a $341,308.21 contract to low bidder Traffic Systems and Services LLC of Robinson Township for a project that features the addition of a dedicated right-turn lane for vehicles proceeding from Bower Hill onto Washington.
The project’s other facets include installing a new traffic signal system and new sidewalk ramps to comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Covering more than half the cost is a $184,559.60 Automated Red Light Enforcement Transportation Enhancements grant, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The local share, $156,748.61, is available through proceeds from a 2019 bond issue and excess money in the municipal Capital Projects Fund.
A 2019 estimate of construction costs was about $266,000, which would have meant a local match of $81,694.
Traffic engineer Michael Haberman of Gateway Engineers said the initial estimate was based on a concept plan prepared for the ARLE grant application.
“When we did the survey and did the actual design and permitting of it, we had about 25% more sidewalk and curb associated with the project than we had estimated on the concept,” he said during the commission’s discussion session that preceded Tuesday’s voting meeting.
The original plan was to rebuild the ADA ramps where Bower Hill Road would be widened. When the design was submitted to PennDOT, though, the department mandated improvements at all the intersection’s ramps, with the required work adding about $30,000 to the cost, according to Haberman.
He said unit bids for materials such as concrete and asphalt came in higher than the 2019 estimate, which was based on historical data compiled for the municipality. Even though the contract has been awarded, the project has a while to go before work begins.
“The turn lane and the widening of Bower Hill and the sidewalk can’t be done until the signal is in place, and the lead time on signal poles right now is anywhere from six to 10 months,” Haberman said, noting only two manufacturers are approved for supplying the poles in Pennsylvania.
He said ARLE grants are not limited to signal improvements.
“This whole project, which included the addition of the right-turn lane, is what was applied for and what the funds were awarded for,” he said.
The subcontractor performing the road widening and concrete work is Michael Facchiano Contracting Inc. of Baldwin Township. Traffic Systems and Services is installing the signal. Three other bids were received for the project, ranging from $360,711 to $377,120.
With a bit of travel involved, Gina Esch discovered an adventure of behalf of her son.
“We took Connor an hour from here, I think, and kind of had a life-changing day for our family,” the South Fayette Township resident said. “It’s something you take for granted, to be able to go on a bike ride.”
For young people like Connor who have life challenges, adaptive bicycles provide the opportunity to have such experiences.
“We wanted to be able to share that with more families in our community,” Gina said.
So she has been working with Dean and Kristin Huibregtse, also of South Fayette, on implementing an adaptive riding program that debuted May 8 on the Montour Trail in Cecil Township.
In memory of their son, Bennett, the Huibregtses founded Always B Smiling, a nonprofit that offers support and experiences for children, their families and caregivers.
Esch, the organization’s vice president, helped bring the adaptive riding program to fruition. From 2 to 4 or 4 to 6 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 30, rides are available for free, with the meeting point in the parking lot of Tandem Connection, 5 Georgetown Road.
Riders need to register on the Always B Smiling website and can sign up for as many rides as they want.
“It’s encouraged to be a family outing,” Esch said. “Everybody will be treated to ice cream here at the Tandem Connection after. So we’re really trying to make it a great experience for everybody.”
Rides are aboard Duet Wheelchair Bicycle Tandems, providing a comfortable wheelchair seat at the front of the electronic-assisted bike. Two trained volunteers accompany riders, one to power the Duet and the other to bike along as a backup.
The first rides of the program launch were taken by Connor Esch and Sophie Hutt, both friends of Bennett Huibregtse.
“This was a big part of Bennett’s life, so we’re happy to give back,” Dean Huibregtse said prior to piloting Sophie on her ride.
He thanked the Montour Trail Council for partnering in the effort, announcing the volunteer group has installed an accessible restroom at the program site and plans to make other accessibility improvements along the 47-mile recreational path, which passes through Peters Township and has a spur in Bethel Park.
Huibregtse also expressed appreciation to Tandem Connection for storing the bicycles and hosting the weekly events, and he announced that his family’s nonprofit has received 501©(3) certification.
“Every dollar we raise is going to go back into programming as we expand Always B Smiling,” he said.
His wife emphasized their mission.
“You know how near and dear to our hearts Bennett was, and we miss him dearly,” Kristin said. “But we’re so happy to share everything he loved in life. And we can’t think of a better way than to create smiles for children with disabilities and health challenges.”
For more information about the adaptive riding program, visit alwaysbsmiling.org/home-page/bike-rides.
A street connection between a long-established Peters Township neighborhood with a new residential development will not be built in the foreseeable future.
Township council voted 4-3 Monday against an ordinance and declaration of taking to authorize the acquisition of a small parcel of land for the purpose of extending Manor Way. Opposing were Frank Arcuri, Robert Lewis, Monica Merrell and Gary Stiegel Jr.
The extension would have linked the Beacon Manor and Marella Manor plans of lots, where many of the homes date back to the 1950s, with Juniper Woods, which has its main access from Thompsonville Road.
Council’s action means the Beacon-Marella neighborhood will continue to be cut off from the rest of Peters Township with regard to vehicular access, as the only way in and out is using Locust Drive through a portion of Upper St. Clair.
In August 2017, three Peters departmental officials – police Capt. Gerald Maloni, public works director Joe Hursen and since-retired fire chief Dan Coyle – wrote letters detailing their support for a connecting street in the name of improved public safety.
“The addition of egress/ingress from Thompsonville Road would reduce the response times in the event of serious calls for service,” Maloni wrote. “Additionally, this would afford our emergency services room to coordinate the approach and placement of emergency vehicles and personnel.”
From a public works perspective, Hursen noted snow-removal equipment could operate in a safer manner with an uphill approach on Manor Way as opposed to navigating the steep descent of Locust Drive.
Coyle said he was concerned about “reduced response times for fire apparatus.”
“A second access will help residents in the event of storms where they need to evacuate the area,” he added. “A single tree can make a road impassable for a significant amount of time, leaving multiple residents trapped in their neighborhood with no alternative way out.”
Residents of the neighborhood, though, have opposed additional access, citing among other issues the potential for traffic congestion on their relatively narrow streets.
Jason and Sherri Snyder, who own the Manor Way property the township intended to acquire, attended Monday’s council meeting to reiterate their position.
“I have signatures of every resident on my road, going up the road to Locust: The ones who don’t work for the township all signed it, stating they don’t want the road,” Jason Snyder said. “We don’t want it, and I’m fighting for them.”
Council member Frank Kosir Jr., who joined David Ball and James Berquist in voting for the declaration of taking, said the request did not emanate from Juniper Woods.
“There is no marketing benefit to the developer to have this connection go through,” he said.
Township manager Paul Lauer concurred.
“The fact of the matter is, this plan is selling quickly and in all likelihood, before that road is done, all of these lots will be sold,” he told council prior to the vote. “There’s a real market for the housing that they’re doing there.”
According to Heartland Homes’ website, only five Juniper Woods home sites remained for sale as of Tuesday. The site features five models of homes, with the lowest-priced listed “from $529,990.”