Jim Thorpe looks into sidewalk concerns near Baddick bridge
Jim Thorpe Borough is planning a full-court press to get its concerns over the abrupt end of sidewalks leading into town from the “AJ” Baddick Memorial Bridge addressed.
Last week, council voted unanimously to send a letter to Carbon County Commissioners and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation asking them to take action within 30 days, or the borough would consider filing an Americans With Disabilities Act complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.
For years borough officials and residents, namely Bill Malatak, have asked for the extension and completion of the sidewalk, which currently forces people out onto Lehigh Avenue, Route 209, near the train station.
“The county can get a grant for $400,000 to move the D&L Trail hikers and bikers out of the county parking lot for safety reasons, but they can’t deal with this issue,” Malatak said. “I’ve been coming here for 10 years, it’s unbelievable.”
Malatak gave council a picture last week showing a man on a motorized scooter reaching the end of the sidewalk and having to go on Route 209 to keep heading toward downtown.
“I’ve seen people riding their bikes down the sidewalk and have to get off, it’s a public safety issue,” Councilman Robert Schaninger said. “If we file an ADA complaint, there is phenomenal pull there.”
There has been a question over the years who owns the property and where the responsibility lies for making the upgrades.
“If there is a question over who owns the property, go to the railroad and say give the county an easement to extend the sidewalk down the street,” Councilman Jay Miller said. “That picture disturbs me. We need to get people out of that dangerous curve.”
Carbon Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein said he agrees the sidewalk is a safety issue. Fixing it, he added, is not as easy as one may think.
“There is the issue of dealing with PennDOT and the fact that the sidewalk would encroach on railroad right of way and even cover existing railroad ties,” Nothstein said. “We have had several conversations with the railroad and I will talk to them again.”
Moving further down toward the train station, an extended sidewalk would run into metered parking spaces currently located along Route 209.
“The other issue would be eliminating parking spaces and getting into PennDOT rights of way,” Nothstein said.
PennDOT spokesperson Ron Young said earlier this week that the department had yet to be contacted by the borough or county regarding the matter, but that the state does permit municipalities or individual property owners to have sidewalks in state rights of way along state routes.
“In some cases PennDOT will replace, or install new, sidewalks as part of a road or bridge project,” Young said. “There are no projects currently programmed for this section of Route 209. If the borough and/or county wish to pursue installing a sidewalk along Route 209, PennDOT will assist them with the permitting process.”
Representatives from the Reading and Northern Railroad did not immediately respond to a request for comment.