The meeting of the Elizabethtown Borough Council on Thursday, May 17, was a nice change of pace.
Frequently, the elected officials outnumber the private citizens who show up to observe them. But at this meeting, so many private citizens showed up that there weren’t enough chairs for everybody and some of them had to stand throughout the meeting. It had the look of one of those packed town meetings on “The Simpsons,” but with people actually speaking intelligently.
Among the intelligent things said at the meeting: Why not build a pedestrian bridge linking the two parts of South Mount Joy Street that are separated by a creek?
Although the borough has long planned to put an automobile bridge there when the money is available, this might be the first time anyone has brought up the idea of a much cheaper pedestrian bridge. And since borough staff has proven quite capable at securing grant money for improving pedestrian and bicycle access, it’s possible that this could be done at little to no cost to borough taxpayers. (Yes, the money would likely come from the state, so our state taxes would pay for it, but once the state Legislature appropriates money for grants, it’s going to be spent somewhere in Pennsylvania. It might as well be spent here; our taxes will be no cheaper if the money is spent in Scranton or Erie.) The benefits of such a bridge would be considerable. One citizen pointed out at the meeting that people frequently are walking alongside Market Street to get to shopping centers. Thankfully, the borough refused to waive a requirement to install a sidewalk when Members 1st Federal Credit Union built its branch on South Market Street some years ago, so pedestrians can make the trip without having to walk in the street. But it would be far more pleasant to make this walk in an area that is not overcrowded with automobiles.
The way things are now, since it’s unpleasant to walk or bicycle to the strip malls, nearly everyone who has a car drives there. But imagine the change if there were a pedestrian-bicycle bridge connecting the two parts of South Mount Joy Street, combined with a pedestrian-bicycle path going from the part of South Mount Joy Street that faces the back of these strip malls to the front of the strip malls. Suddenly, plenty of people now making that trip by car would walk or bicycle to their destinations. That would reduce traffic on South Market Street, which would benefit those who never use the pedestrian-bicycle infrastructure.
This is a good idea — and it came about because a citizen showed up at a public meeting and spoke out. There are two lessons to be learned from this. First, more citizens should show up at public meetings and speak their minds. And second, borough staff should look into the feasibility of this idea and whether grant money can be secured to pay for it.
The preceding editorial is the opinion of The Elizabethtown Advocate. Other opinions on this page are those of individual contributors. The Advocate aims to give its readers a wide variety of opinions.