Township Closer To Makeover For Unionville's Main Street

Posted: October 16, 1998

EAST MARLBOROUGH — Township Manager Jane Laslo is an ardent observer of civic detail.

She notices that the brick sidewalks of West Chester are easily repairable. Colorado's street fountains help to calm traffic. And the old gas lights of Boston add a historic touch.

These are just a few ideas to bring to the stretch of Route 82 that is the main street of Unionville.

``You know, there are some things worth paying taxes for,'' Laslo said. ``People want the security of knowing they can walk safely through the village. And it would be nice if the sidewalks could be [picturesque].''

Some township residents agree.

In 1992, more than 35 percent of them responded in a survey that walkways from the village ball fields to the high school should be a priority. And this week, township officials announced that they were one step closer to laying brick.

The East Marlborough Land Trust is applying for a $100,000 state Keystone Grant for a project that is estimated to cost $500,000.

And that's in addition to the $250,000 matching grant the county already has promised, as well as plans to apply for grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation specifically for recreation trails, said Baylen Kaskey, a Land Trust board member and chairman of the Planning Commission.

``Right now, it's unsafe to walk from one house to another,'' Kaskey said. ``You almost have to walk in the lanes of traffic, and people in the town are concerned about the children. There's no safe way to let the kids play.''

From 1992 to 1996, there were 66 crashes on the village's main street, resulting in 57 injuries and one death, PennDot statistics say. Speeders pass the 35-m.p.h. signs in a blur.

Negotiations for the township to assume control from PennDot of the 2.3-mile stretch of Route 82 from Mill Road to Route 926 have been stalled for two years, Kaskey said.

PennDot has repeatedly canceled meetings over the last three months; another is set for Monday.

The parties must agree on the renovations the state will pay for. So far, Kaskey said, the amount is estimated at $300,000.

``We can respond faster to the needs of the road and making it safer, say, by putting in a crosswalk,'' Kaskey said, explaining why officials want to acquire that stretch of Route 82. ``It is much harder for the state to get around to doing these things.''

At first, homeowners on Route 82 were hesitant to endorse the plan, saying the three-foot sidewalk would mean forfeiting parts of their properties. There is only about 33 feet between the road and property lines.

Now, homeowners are supporting easements with the expectation that the sidewalks could raise property values.

``It took us months to convince some of them,'' Laslo said. ``I had to put my honor on the line for it.''

Officials envision a canopy of trees buffering the sidewalk and crosswalks that would help return the road to pedestrians. Then residents could walk to the post office without looking over their shoulders in fear of sloppy drivers.

And maybe lamps, fountains and benches could dress up a village that is registered as a national historic place and a state historic district.

``It could be pictorial, like the days when dogs could sleep in the middle of the streets,'' Laslo said. ``Not that we want to eliminate 18-wheelers. We just want them to go through at a much slower pace.''

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