Bucks County Herald

Frenchtown panel would boost pedestrian safety

RICK EPSTEIN

Frenchtown is delightfully walkable, but not if you live on Everittstown Hill Road, aka Route 513. It has plenty of traffic, some of it speeding, no sidewalks and little to no shoulders.

The borough is forming a Route 513 Pedestrian Safety Committee to address that situation, Mayor Brad Myhre announced Saturday, Dec. 1, at one of his town hall meetings. This one drew 25 residents.

“Parents want their kids to be able to walk to school, and we need to get people to slow down,” he said. “Frenchtown is a thoroughfare,” he said later. Route 513 is the most direct link for commuters between Interstate 78 and Frenchtown – and nearby parts of Pennsylvania – so traffic is heavy.

The installation of sidewalks on Route 513 has been discussed. But such a project would have to deal with water lines, pipelines, utility poles, and trees in addition to rights-of-way issues. And the road is steep. In the 1930s it used to be closed to traffic for sledding, and last August a truck lost its brakes on that downgrade and smashed into Galasso’s pizzeria.

Myhre said the engineer has walked the site and found that putting in a sidewalk might be an impossible “feat of engineering, in terms of being up to today’s safety standards.”

Looking back into history, Myhre said there used to be a stairway down the steep embankment by which pedestrians could get from the Cedar Street neighborhood down to Milford Road. “Could we re-engage the walkway and put in a small staircase?” It might require acquiring some property or reactivating a right-of-way, he said.

A resident doubted that the borough would give a high priority to shoveling snow off the stairway, especially when school closes early during a snowstorm. Councilwoman Caroline Scutt said that perhaps older kids at Frenchtown school would do it as community service. Chief Kurylka added, “The Del Val football team is always willing to help.”

Myhre said, “There is no perfect solution,” so the goal is “to make an improvement.”

It was suggested that Frenchtown’s school bus be used to collect students from the less-accessible areas, but school board President Kate Nugent said the bus was used so infrequently that it has been leased to the high school.

The new pedestrian safety committee could include Police Chief Al Kurylka, Police Commissioner Michele Liebtag and three residents. Kingwood Avenue resident Mansour Tabibnia asked if his street could be included. It is the county-owned Frenchtown section of Route 12. The mayor agreed.

As for getting traffic to slow down on Route 513 and Kingwood Avenue, enforcement is impaired by frequent turnover in the police department. In fact, the small department is currently down a cop. And the state police, who fill in as needed for the borough force, are also spread thin. During the upcoming weekend, when the troopers are protecting Frenchtown “they won’t sit there and run radar all day,” said the mayor. “They have a lot of territory to cover.”

When he invited the police chief for input on slowing speeders in the trouble spots, Kurylka said, “Give me officers!”

Liebtag said, “We’d love to expand the force and increase their salaries to parity with other departments. But we are the smallest municipality in Hunterdon County that has a stand-alone police force. … We push the idea of small-town policing” for recruitment, but Holland Township pays $10,000 more. Recent hires have been young people who gained some experience and moved on. The mayor said that with its small tax base, the borough can only afford to start police at $38,000 (with another 70 percent for benefits, pension, etc.).

Some help on Route 513 may be coming from the county, the mayor said, in the form of a digital speed sign and painting on the roadway itself. It would be “slow-down messages,” said Councilwoman Tami Peterson.




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