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Walnut St.-rail trail crossing flasher approved

The construction of a rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB) pedestrian crosswalk signal at West Walnut Street and the Saucon Rail Trail and borough’s vacation of two streets behind the Star Pre-Owned of Hellertown car dealership were among the notable topics of business at the Sept. 7 Hellertown Council meeting.

Borough engineer Bryan Smith said the RRFBs would be “identical to the one that’s currently along the Rail Trail at Water Street and also those that were just installed on Main Street” during improvement projects this summer. The crosswalk is currently labeled with by a yellow ‘pedestrian crossing’ sign on each side, a small ‘yield’ marker in the middle of the crosswalk and ‘stop’ signs on both ends of the trail at the intersection for folks on foot or bicycles. Despite these markers, some have expressed concerns that more is needed to alert drivers of those crossing, especially during periods of less light.

The bid for the job was awarded to Cobalt Construction in the amount of $139,180. Smith indicated that the borough had received six bids, and that the work will also include a sidewalk extension to the Grist Mill as well as some improvements to the small parking lot which sits directly behind the Rail Trail. Cobalt installed the RRFBs on Main Street “which went very well,” Smith said.

Owner Clete Landis with Star joined the meeting to propose the borough vacate two perpendicular streets, Oak Alley and Hemlock Street, directly behind the existing dealership. In anticipation of Star’s acquisition of the empty lot which sits between the aforementioned streets and behind its current property, it would be beneficial to allow unencumbered movement throughout their newly-expanded property without public streets running through it, Landis explained.

Smith suggested simply consolidating the newly-purchased parcel into Star’s current property before applying for the streets’ vacation, as it first has to be approved by the Hellertown Planning Commission before coming to council anyway, he said.

Council President Thomas Rieger Jr. explained that due to recent revisions to the Pa. Sunshine Act, the proposal would have to be publicly advertised and included on a future meeting’s agenda before any action can be taken. The purpose is to allow interested parties to comment if they so choose. The earliest the motion could be included would be Sept. 21, regardless of any action taken by the planning commission.

In other business, council further discussed the athletic field improvements which were initially proposed by the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Little League at the Aug. 16 meeting. The proposal included the installation of enclosed dugouts and a portion of fencing at Farm Field, as well as new batting cages, one between farm and Softball Fields and the other replacing a recently storm-damaged cage at Majors Field.

Rieger immediately said of the plans, “I will not vote to install fencing around Farm Field.” Several other council members agreed and referenced concerns raised during the previous meeting. Public Works department head Barry Yonney said he had spoken to representatives from the organization and reiterated that some portions of their proposals would be “a lot of work” and that the fence would not be a reasonable option.

Rieger suggested a motion be made to immediately deny the fencing and to table the rest of the discussion until the Little League would be able to present defined sketch plans of the other facets of the proposal. The motion passed unanimously.

A vacancy on the aforementioned borough Planning Commission was approved to be filled by Larry O’Donnell for the remainder of the calendar year. O’Donnell, who currently serves as president of the Friends of the Hellertown Library, was previously approved unanimously by the commission in August to take the place of Phil Weber, who had recently resigned his spots on both the commission and borough council due to health concerns.

A Google Earth image of Oak Alley and Hemlock Street behind the Star Pre-Owned car dealership.
press photo by chris haring The intersection of Walnut Street and the Saucon Rail Trail is where the addition of an RRFB pedestrian crosswalk signal is proposed to be placed.