Photo by Alice Crow
Cars drive down Crafton Boulevard during ongoing streetscape construction.
By Alice Crow
The Crafton Boulevard Streetscape project is getting a few tweaks.
On July 14, Crafton officials approved $2,625 worth of changes to the bumpout design located at the corner of Vance Alley and Crafton Boulevard. Another $4,125 in proposed construction changes to the sidewalk in front of the Bradford Court Apartments was discussed at length and ultimately tabled.
These two changes were proposed by Fire Chief Mike Crown during the June 23 council meeting.
Council members passed a motion at the time to have Gateway Engineers run more simulations based on suggestions and concerns by the community and return to the July 14 meeting to present findings and potential costs.
Engineer Rick Minsterman presented a diagram of Crafton Boulevard with the two proposed changes. It would cost the borough $2,625 to change the Vance Alley bumpout from a curve to an angle and $4,125 to lower the sidewalk in front of the Bradford Court Apartments.
Chief Crown proposed these changes because he believes a firetruck cannot successfully maneuver the bumpout and sidewalk, therefore having to jump these curbs, which would damage the vehicles over time. Gateway Engineers have repeatedly pointed to simulations showing that these types of maneuvers are possible.
After the presentation by the engineer, Councilperson Colton Chandler proposed a motion to move forward with the changes. During the discussion, some council members expressed their hesitation.
“I am struggling to understand the safety concerns and how those are addressed in these changes. I understand the changes were made at the request of the fire chief but not at any need from an engineering standpoint,” Vice President Kristen Compitello said.
Minsterman again reiterated that the original design was adequate.
“We don't believe it brings any additional safety benefit. It is purely at the request of council to meet with the fire chief and ask for his recommendations,” Minsterman said.
While the proposal for the Vance Alley bumpout change still seemed unnecessary to some members, it eventually passed unanimously after some discussion.
“Knowing that this design was prepared under the previous council, which the fire chief was a councilmember at that time, I’m still trying to understand why it was acceptable last year and now we are being asked to approve $6,750 in changes that do not brings any material benefit or improvement to the functioning of the street,” Compitello said.
As for the Bradford Court Apartments sidewalk, Councilperson Phillip Levasseur motioned to table the decision to allow the council to gather more information after it came into question whether the change would decrease safety in the area.
“Just the idea of the curb being lowered provides some difference, some lesser level of safety, even if it is maybe something infinitesimal, it is still less by not having that protection from the curb,” Minsterman said.
“I would like to table this actually because I think we need some more documentation from the manufacturer of the firetruck and we need to understand the capabilities of the frame of the vehicles before we go ahead and embark on additional changes,” Levasseur proposed.
Levasseur’s motion was passed with one opposing vote from president pro-tem Vincent Ridilla.
The funds for the approved change will not be grant funded and must be pulled from the borough’s bond issue.
“At this point, this is a zero-sum game. It comes out of our pocket. This is not grant funding. This is our pocket,” said Levasseur.
Other concerns addressed
Other resident concerns were addressed during the engineer presentation. School bus accessibility to Crafton Boulevard was mentioned by a local school bus driver at the June 23 meeting. Minsterman presented two simulations: one of a school bus turning onto Crafton Boulevard before the streetscape construction and a second of the bus making the turn after the changes.
Both simulations showed the bus having to cross into the other lane to make the turn, indicating no real change to school bus accessibility because of the project. Additionally, Minsterman noted the turn proposed as a concern by the school bus driver is not a turn ever taken on a Crafton school bus route.
Residents also wondered if visibility would decrease when trees and shrubs are installed in the bumpouts. Minsterman reassured residents that visibility would not significantly decrease due to added plant life.
“The trees are designed that you would see under the canopy,” Minsterman said, assuring that all of the sight distance requirements are met.
The final concern addressed was that of a resident who complained of increased difficulty parking her car in her driveway on Crafton Boulevard. Minsterman cited that the engineers had experimented with pulling multiple types of vehicles into the driveway, proving that the maneuver was still possible and was not impaired by the streetscape project.