$1.2 million Lemont traffic calming concerns raised

Consensus of the Township Council to continue pursuing a traffic calming project on Pike Street followed member Dave Koll’s statement that “the longer we wait, the longer it’s never going to happen.”

The desire to continue the project came despite concerns about parking changes and the potential for a street closure from Lemont business owners who attended Thursday night’s council meeting.

Dick Stever, who owns Mayes Memorials, among other properties along Pike Street, said he’s concerned about parking for his business and others on the west side of Pike Street.

“I have a million dollars invested in Lemont,” he said. “I’m not willing to, or want you to, experiment with my businesses and what I have invested.”

The project exists as concept drawings by Keller Engineers, showing the potential for items like painted crosswalks, bumped out portions of the street, improved sidewalks and parallel parking, all ideas to attempt to slow passenger and heavy truck traffic.

The township has held two open houses to gauge public input on the concept, and has fielded various concerns on parking, pedestrian safety and other issues.

The entire project currently is estimated to cost $1.2 million and would required state Department of Transportation approval, as Pike Street is a state route.

Township engineer Kent Baker didn’t think that would be a major hurdle, as Keller consultant Michael Pratt has had several preliminary meetings with PennDOT officials.

“Certainly the curbing, sidewalks and bulbouts they would be OK with,” Baker said.

Baker will take council members’ and the public’s questions and concerns to Pratt to develop a scope of work and more specific cost estimates for the project, as well as whether it can occur in phases and if parking on the west side of the street can remain as-is.

Koll said the township should look into what actually is possible and that the street does need attention.

“You see these beautiful homes, but we have this street that’s falling apart in front of them,” he said. “I think that’s taking away from the village. We need to push through this.”

Councilwoman Mary Shoemaker agreed, saying the project should advance to the point of readiness, should grant funding become available.

Chairman Dave Fryer said there is a need on Pike Street, but said he’s pessimistic that outside funding will become available and that the township should put a cap on further design expenditures. To date, it has paid about $32,000.

“I am not optimistic that’s a good place to put our money at this point,” he said.

Cafe Lemont owner Michael Beck posed the question of whether the project would require a full street closure at any point. Fryer said he hoped not, after the impacts felt last year in Lemont when Branch Road closed for a PennDOT bridge repair project.

“Instead of looking at this as one whole project to approve or abandon, say these changes on this block are good for everybody, so we can show we can move forward and have some success that could lead to support for subsequent portions of that,” Beck said.

Baker said the conceptual ideas would slow traffic and may require temporary closings, but that he does not anticipate any portion requiring a full road closure.

Sue Smith, chairwoman of the Lemont Village Association board, said the LVA hasn’t taken a position on the project, but that there’s room for compromise, based on the business owners’ concerns.

“I think if the parking is working on one side, keep it,” she said, adding that a good compromise would be adding sidewalks and safe places to cross Pike Street.