A Decade in the Making: Paving the Way to Cranberry Heights
After the project stalled two years ago to make sure endangered snakes weren't living in the area, a new road connecting Route 19 to the neighborhood is well underway.
When the Cranberry Heights neighborhood was built in the northwest section of the township near Freshcorn Road, it always was with the understanding that a connection one day would be built linking the homes to Route 19.
Ten years—and one extensive study to make sure endangered massasauga rattlesnakes weren’t calling the area home—later the project finally is underway.
“They’re making really good progress with it now,” said Tim Zinkham, Cranberry’s supervisor of engineering services, who is overseeing the project.
In June, crews from Grove City-based Thomas Construction began cutting out the road. At about 1,900 feet in length, the connector will bisect the Deener family property, a working farm located near the intersection of Bear Run Road with Route 19. The Deeners sold the land to the township for about $175,000 last fall.
Originally dubbed the “northwest connector,” the road, which will be an extension of the neighborhood’s Heights Drive, will provide a direct route to the highway for the people living in the 244 Cranberry Heights homes.
“The majority of the people are anxious and excited for the road,” said Zinkham, who added he is in constant communication with the Cranberry Heights Homeowners Association about the project.
To access Route 19 currently, homeowners must travel the narrow and winding Bear Run Road.
When Cranberry Patch asked readers on its Facebook page what they thought of the Heights Drive extension, several responded they were pleased to have an additional route to one of the township’s major thoroughfares, particularly if it gives first responders quicker access to the neighborhood.
“That will be a huge time saver for us emergency responders to arrive at those now dead-end roads,” said Joe Minkel, a member of Cranberry’s fire police.
Reader Deborah Gendron noted she would be relieved to have the new road in place when bad weather hits the area.
“There are parts of Bear Run that don't have guard rails and are difficult to see ahead for the deer,” she said.
Others aired concerns that the new road will encourage speeding through the residential neighborhood.
“It's a double-edged sword. Bear Run Road is falling apart and has been barely held together with patches over the past several years, so another way in and out of the neighborhood is needed,” said Mark Shipley. “However, I am concerned about the extra traffic being funneled through the neighborhood and how well the new traffic calming measures will handle that. Speed is already an issue on Heights Drive.”
Reader Megan Lark agreed.
“As with other neighbors, we are concerned with the added traffic that the extension will bring and the speed at which the cars travel,” she commented.
To help mange the expected increase in traffic, the township is adding traffic calming devices, including planted islands in the center of the road similar to the ones found in the Ehrman Farms neighborhood.
“It gives you the sense of a narrowing feeling to the road,” Zinkham said of the planters. “Even though the pavement doesn’t change much, it forces you to slow down.”
The project itself was slowed down two years ago when the state Department of Environmental Protection required the township to determine if massasauga snakes were living in the area. Under state law, the habitat of an endangered species cannot be destroyed—meaning no new road.
A biologist Cranberry hired to examine the property found no evidence of the rattlers.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $2 million, and Cranberry is seeking alternative funding sources to help offset the costs, the township website said.
Zinkham said he anticipates have the road open by the end of September. For now, there are no plans to add a traffic signal at the Heights Drive extension’s intersection with Route 19. In the future, Zinkham said a signal could be added to the area.
Are you concerned about additional traffic, or speeding, in the Cranberry Heights neighborhood? Are you relieved first responders will have quicker access to the homes? Leave your thoughts on the northwest connector in the comment section below.