Today McKees Rocks celebrates the return of lower Chartiers Avenue to two-way traffic. For almost 30 years, the traffic pattern governing the borough’s main street siphoned foot and vehicular traffic away from the business district. No more.

A $117,338 PennDOT grant was behind the reversal of the split which is expected to encourage economic growth.

The grant, secured from PennDOT’s Automated Red Light Enforcement (ARLE) program, paid for traffic lights and signal equipment, alerting drivers to the new pattern. The fairly straightforward change is expected to have a significant impact on the health of the business district, says Economic Development Manager for the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (MRCDC), Jeb Feldman.

“It’s really exciting for us to have a logical traffic pattern and be able to create the main street that we envision: storefronts open for business that pedestrians and drivers can see and recognize that there is a vibrant business district growing here again.”

The former split funneled high-speed traffic one-way through the business district and shifted the estimated 17,000 vehicles moving inbound to downtown Pittsburgh onto Furnace Street behind local businesses.

For 12 years the MRCDC has advocated a return to bi-directional traffic to address the significant loss the split inflicted on the business district. The issue took on greater importance early this year after the borough’s Main Street Plan was finalized and the one-way traffic was presented as a serious issue, Feldman says.

The most important reason to change the traffic flow of a downtown street is to improve the economic well-being of a business district. according to the The National Main Street Center. “A survey of 25 towns and cities that have converted their main streets show that many have experienced significant reductions in vacant floor space after conversion,” they report on their site.

Borough Secretary Tricia Levander, who found the ARLE grant opportunity and wrote the application, was instrumental in making the traffic change possible.

A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 3 P.M. today at Hollywood Music, 601 Chartiers Avenue.

Margaret J Krauss

Margaret J. Krauss is a writer, radio producer, and researcher. If not biking Pittsburgh's streets or swimming its rivers, she is likely geeking out about a really good story.