Panel unveils ideas for Main St.

Wider sidewalks needed to revitalize town, committee says

April 27, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Union Bridge needs crosswalks and wider sidewalks to improve Main Street, a group of residents was told last night.

About two dozen people went to the town's community center for a presentation by Union Bridge Main Street Revitalization Committee.

The ideas were presented by representatives of the design consultant, Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani LLP of Baltimore, and the State Highway Administration, which has several similar projects under way in communities throughout the county and the state.

In Union Bridge, a strong focus is on history, said Joan McKee, head of the committee that includes town officials, residents and business people.

"A number of us want to see the historic integrity of the town preserved," she said.

An SHA archaeologist also participated in last night's meeting.

Sidewalks in town are a problem because they are narrow, without enough room to separate pedestrians and vehicles. Some rise a foot or more and others drop 2 feet. Ramps also are needed to make sidewalks accessible for people with disabilities.

The committee also would like to create more parking for handicapped and general business use. It considered lighting and paving for the parking lot behind Town Hall, which becomes muddy and poses a challenge for the disabled.

"This is a high priority for us," said McKee, a resident for 13 years who recently received a ticket for parking in what she had always thought was a private driveway.

Peter Pearre, an architect and committee member, recalled the town once had a clock on the Farmers & Mechanics Bank building, which could be replaced.

The committee also liked his suggestion for two monuments -- one to note the importance of the railroad and the Civil War to the town, the other to honor native son and 19th-century sculptor William Henry Rinehart.

Other ideas included adding antique-style streetlights, benches and trash cans; replacing the traffic light fixture; signs to locate town buildings; forming a business association; moving utility lines off Main Street; and converting the intersection of Main Street and Broadway into a town square.

David Powlen, a landscape architect for the consulting firm, said the town's Main Street has three distinct sections -- heavy commercial, historic commercial and residential.

In their survey, the consultants found that "older houses are very expensive to purchase. People have moved from Union Bridge because there is no housing available."

They found no vacancies on Main Street and a number of storefronts converted to apartments that townspeople would prefer to see as shops again. Some apartments are in poor condition.

Final designs, reports and cost estimates must be ready by May 22 to present to the mayor and City Council.

Robert L. Fisher, SHA district engineer, said that after the town decides what it wants, the state will decide what is economically feasible. Then, the town of about 1,000 must compete with others for construction money. The state has about 20 Main Street projects under way, and more than 70 in the design phase.

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