NEW CUMBERLAND - Foot traffic in a portion of New Cumberland has slowed to a crawl since city authorities have blocked access to the courthouse steps and the sidewalk on Station Hill.
Both the steps and the sidewalk have been deemed unsafe and need to be either repaired or replaced, New Cumberland Mayor Richard D. Blackwell said.
"We were just concerned that somebody might get hurt. ... It's just not a good situation," Blackwell said.
New Cumberland City Council voted June 18 to close both pedestrian access points indefinitely. Earlier this week, orange barrels were placed at the top and bottom of the hill to block access to the sidewalk, and plywood was placed at the top and bottom of the stone steps. Signs also have been posted.
Several slabs of the sidewalk have come loose as a result of heavy truck traffic on the hill, Blackwell said.
"It's tearing the sidewalk up because some of these trucks are really heavy," he said. "They squeeze over toward the sidewalk because a truck's coming down the hill."
Tractor-trailers, especially, have a difficult time negotiating the hill because of the narrow roadway, the tight turn and opposing traffic. Unless motorists give them a wide berth, truckers often are forced onto the sidewalk.
Several of the stone steps leading from the Hancock County Courthouse to state Route 2 also are loose and in need of repair. "We were worried about increased traffic on the steps (because of the sidewalk's closing)," Blackwell said. "They're just temporarily closed until we can get repairs done."
The city has hired engineering firm KCI to study how the sidewalk can be redesigned to be more safe. Blackwell said that may involve moving the sidewalk as much as 20 feet from where it is now and making it handicap-accessible.
The mayor said there is no timetable for the project because the city doesn't have the funding to pay for it. Once the engineering study is done, the city will be able to more accurately determine the cost and seek funding, Blackwell said.
New Cumberland Community Service Director George Hines III thinks the job should be done sooner than later.
"I think it's urgent," Hines said. "I think the city, county and state should get together and come up with a way to make it safe."
Hines said the fact that New Cumberland is a county seat and that the hill is on a state route adds urgency to the project. At the top of the hill sits the courthouse, including all the county government offices, Hancock County Magistrate Court, Hancock County Circuit Court and the New Cumberland City Building.
The steps and sidewalk leading from the city building to Route 2 are still open, as is a set of steps leading down from Pride Park, Blackwell said.
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