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Moon: Plan for University Boulevard includes pedestrian-friendly features

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

By Dan Gigler, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Why did the pedestrian cross University Boulevard?

Good question, given the lack of sidewalks and safe crossing areas, something that officials hope to change while also accommodating an anticipated increase in vehicle traffic on Moon's main drag.

At a special meeting last Wednesday night at Robert Morris University, township officials and representatives from Findlay-based Mackin Engineering unveiled their $33-million plan to better service both foot and vehicular traffic along the roughly 2.5-mile corridor.

Changes include: A bi-directional left-turn lane; a traffic signal and turning lanes near Rosemont and Patton Drives; a pedestrian overpass near Moon Middle School; a pair of thru-lanes at the intersection with Moon Clinton Road; a walled, limited-access interchange to Brodhead and Beaver Graderoads; and sidewalks along the boulevard.

In addition, the township wants to install underground utility lines and reduce the number of curb cuts, encouraging mixed-use development.

Another goal is to create a unified visual theme, which includes a "gateway" entrance to the township near Business Route 60, conserving original architecture, creating uniform signage, adding new street signs and limiting billboards.

Township manager Greg Smith said when the old Narrows Run/Beers School Road strip was built up in the 1950s, little was done in the way of future planning.

"Businesses took advantage of the access to Pittsburgh International Airport and they built, with no real plan. It had more of a New Jersey feel to it," Smith said.

Bob Dudash of Mackin said a traffic study revealed an estimated 31,000 vehicles per day traverse the stretch of road. By the year 2025, that number is expected to grow to 45,000 vehicles per day.

Dudash's presentation included a video put together by the University Boulevard Steering Committee showing frustrated pedestrians navigating the shoulder and attempting to cross the wide and busy thoroughfare.

For Moon businesses, the dearth of pedestrian access cuts off two potentially lucrative streams of revenue -- Robert Morris University students and guests at the various nearby hotels and motels.

"We want to improve business, not take it away," Dudash said.

Most agreed that sidewalks were needed, but the highway-like, walled interchange where the boulevard meets Brodhead and Beaver Grade roads raised more than a few eyebrows among the 50 or so residents who attended.

Randy and Dawn Gibson live near the bottom of University Boulevard and already have to contend with speeding drivers near their home.

"This might make the rest of University Boulevard better, but my main concern is speed -- they're gonna fly down there," Randy Gibson said.

Lisa Wolowicz agreed that the interchange could make University Boulevard more like the Parkway West than a suburban business district.

"We don't need an interstate to go through Moon," she deadpanned.

Others are pleased that the project is gaining momentum. School board member Peggy Bell said, "Even if it's done in baby steps, at least something is being done."

No starting date has been announced as funding must still be secured. The project would not be done all at once, but in smaller increments over a longer period of time.

The plan is still a work in progress, and the township is encouraging feedback from the public via its Web site, www.moontwp.com. Pictures of the plan are available, and there is a link to e-mail comments and suggestions to township planning director Scott Brilhart.


Dan Gigler can be reached at dgigler@post-gazette.com or 412-269-6174.

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