Cranberry is connecting.
Back in the day, most of Cranberry’s individual parts – its neighborhoods, office parks, shopping centers, municipal buildings, playgrounds, schools and churches – were developed in isolation. The idea that they might benefit from being connected to one another by sidewalks, particularly in what was then a mostly rural Cranberry Township, must have seemed odd.
Cranberry’s first comprehensive plan, in 1977, didn’t even mention sidewalks or trails as priorities. Walking, after all, was what you did in parks; driving was how you got from Point A to Point B.
By the ‘90s, however, attitudes had changed. Developments were being built closer together. New residents were arriving from other communities where sidewalks were customary. Developments patterned after traditional small town neighborhoods were becoming popular. Personal fitness had become an obsession. And the Board had installed a new municipal administration.
Cranberry’s 1995 plan, for the first time, recommended amending Township codes to require that sidewalks be built in conjunction with new development. Over time, it was reasoned, every parcel of land in the Township would either be developed or re-developed, eventually resulting in a fully connected sidewalk system. But it would take several generations before that goal could be realized.
By the start of the new millennium, the concept had been further refined. Accelerating a coherent network of pedestrian and bicycle connections had become a planning priority. Walkable neighborhood designs became a marketplace mantra. Greenways linking public parks to neighborhoods and to one another had emerged as a municipal standard. And Cranberry’s 2009 plan update codified the desire to create attractive streetscapes and enhance the walking experience.
But while the broad principle of creating a pleasant and convenient sidewalk network had become widely accepted, some thorny practical issues remained. Who, for example, should be exempt from the requirement? What is the Township’s role in sidewalk and trail construction? Who is responsible for their maintenance, repair, snow removal, and plant trimming? And whose liability is it if someone were injured on a sidewalk? More about winter sidewalk maintenance
To address these concerns in the context of a scheduled update to Cranberry’s comprehensive plan, the Township formed a staff committee to take a fresh look at the issues surrounding pedestrian connections. Using maps, diagrams, data sets and other planning tools, the committee attempted to rank the significance of possible improvements, identify sources of potential funding, evaluate utility rights of way, review handicap accessibility concerns, and determine how best to secure public input to the planning effort.
One persistent issue involves providing pedestrian crossings on the Township’s major arteries. The most recent example involved a development proposal – since withdrawn – for pedestrians to cross Rt. 19 at Ehrman Road. But it was along a downhill slope with a posted speed of 55, where many people actually do 65 or 70, and no matter what signage or type of crosswalk configuration it involved, it would remain fundamentally unsafe. So the plan was abandoned.
The answer, according to Planning & Development Services director Ron Henshaw, lies in the roadway’s slower sections, where speeds are down to 45 miles an hour or less. “We can’t cross people at every intersection,” Henshaw acknowledged. “These slower sections are the areas we’re going to focus on to make sure we are getting people across.”