The heads of the state Department of Health and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources joined local and Lancaster County officials on a one-mile walk in Elizabethtown to tour the borough’s efforts to improve community health by becoming more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
Elizabethtown received a $10,000 grant through WalkWorks, a program of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, to help develop and adopt an Active Transportation Plan.
“It’s common knowledge that we benefit physically when we’re active,” said acting Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine. “One hour of brisk walking every day can cut a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half, and a daily 20-minute walk can cut the risk of dementia by 40 percent.”
Under its plan, every street that is presented for resurfacing in the annual paving program for Elizabethtown Borough is evaluated for safe, convenient, and appropriate vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle, ADA and public transportation activity.
The borough and the surrounding municipalities hope to create a network of trails that would allow for pedestrian and bicycle traffic to travel throughout the entire community.
“This effort is a great example of government that works, with funding supplied by DCNR, DCED, PennDOT, and Lancaster County to undertake planning, trail and park development, and alternative transportation,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.
While walking along the trail on Friday, Nov. 17, Dunn said she was impressed with what the borough has done.
“I haven’t seen anything this extensive,” Dunn said. “It doesn’t mean it’s not out there, but I haven’t seen it.”
Elizabethtown has adopted a Complete Streets Policy and Transportation Plan for a pedestrian and bicycle pathway network that has received investments including: atotal of $350,000 from the Lancaster County Urban Enhancement Fund and DCED New Communities grant programs from Market Street to the Community Center; grants totaling $1.9 million from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project, and Federal Transportation Administration and PennDOT for a connection to the Amtrak train station; and funds totaling $694,743 from a Smart Growth Transportation and DCNR Community Conservation Partnerships Program for the pathway through Community Park to the Elizabethtown Area School District campus.
Elizabethtown Borough Manager Roni Ryan briefed the state officials on the Complete Streets Policy, which involves improvements to several streets that are already due to be resurfaced in the coming years. They are East Willow Street, Highlawn Avenue, South Mount Joy Street and Groff Avenue. All of the streets are to be made better for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Ryan said Groff Avenue was built without sidewalks in the 1950s. It is widely used by pedestrians, though; since it is near the Elizabethtown College campus, student-athletes often run on the street.
“It’s a really big street, but it doesn’t have sidewalks and it doesn’t have bike lanes – but it’s also wide,” Ryan said. South Mount Joy Street has similar issues to Groff Avenue, she said.
East Willow Street has sidewalks, but no bike lanes; Ryan said bicyclists often ride on the sidewalk there. The same is true on Highlawn Avenue, she said.
“We are very walkable, but there’s just some key areas that we need to address,” Ryan said, speaking of the borough as a whole.
Dunn noted that an action step in the statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan is to help communities conduct walkability and bikeability assessments and seek national recognition for those efforts.
The Department of Health and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are part of 12-member interagency team currently working together to advance more walkable communities across Pennsylvania.