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Danger to pedestrians may force trail to be revamped

Mark Gibb knows what the graze of a car mirror feels like all too well.

Gibb, who uses the bike trail along Ingomar Road in North Park almost daily, said an overcrowded trail that is clogged with bikers, walkers, joggers, roller-skaters and the occasional dog-walker, has forced him into Ingomar Road traffic.

Although he never has been seriously injured, the 31-year-old Bellevue resident called the crowded shoulder beside Ingomar Road “an accident waiting to happen.”

“I’ve had a lot of cars scrape me or bump me. I’ve never been knocked down, but I usually feel the heat of the exhaust from the tailpipes when they pass by,” Gibb said.

Citing safety reasons, county planners want to move the trail around North Park Lake off the busy stretch it carves along the sides of Ingomar Road and Babcock Boulevard.

About a mile of the trail uses the shoulder of these two roads, and officials and residents alike say it’s too close for comfort.

According to PennDOT, 15,000 cars a day use Ingomar Road.

Gene Vaskov, an engineer with the Allegheny County Public Works Department, said the trail could be built during a North Park Lake dredging project the Army Corps of Engineers hopes to begin in 2005.

County officials admit they have had safety problems with walkers using roads inside county parks.

In March 2001, a motorist who suffered a ruptured aortic aneurysm while driving in South Park plowed into a trio of walkers at more than 60 mph, killing the walkers, himself and his wife, who was riding in the car.

In January 2002, a McCandless man who said he swerved to avoid a wild turkey hit and killed pedestrian along Lake Shore Drive in North Park.

The project to revamp the North Park trail would cost around $1 million, Vaskov said.

Although no money is budgeted for the project, Vaskov said the recently created Allegheny County Parks Commission would work to find money to upgrade the heavily used trail. The commission was formed earlier this year specifically to match private foundation money with needed park projects.

Andy Baechle, parks department director, said the upgraded trail could be a “signature” feature of North Park. Baechle said he would search for funding from a variety of sources, including Regional Asset District funds, which come from the extra 1 percent sales tax in the county.

Preliminary plans for the new trail include:

= A 14-foot elevated boardwalk skirting the lake along Ingomar Road and Babcock Blvd.

= A bridge over a spillway that will be built in the lake between Ingomar Road and Lake Shore Drive.

= Additional fishing areas and handicapped ramps.

Users support the potential for a separate trail.

“If they can find a way to get people farther from the highway, I think it would be better for everyone,” said Steve Digman, 46, of Shaler, who walks the lake trail almost daily.

Digman said the trail is well-used, especially on weekends.

“Saturday and Sunday you can’t go more than 20 feet without seeing another person,” he said.

Elaine Molinengo, 39, of Cranberry, said the traffic usually keeps her off the Ingomar Road side of the lake.

“I’d probably walk the whole way around if it weren’t for the traffic,” she said.

Jim Tomazich, 53, of Marshall, said safety isn’t the only reason to move the trail off the side of the road.

“In the winter, you notice the salt and exhaust from the cars,” he said.


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