After hearing from proponents of bicycle and pedestrian safety, the Gettysburg Borough Council moved forward on a project (the “Gettysburg Funnel”) that would make Racehorse Alley one-way running east from Buford Ave. to Franklin St. and one-way west from Chambersburg St. to Franklin St. To leave the alley, all traffic would turn toward Chambersburg St. on Franklin.
The councilmembers chose the funnel option over others including making the alley one-way west or one-way east, and doing nothing. The funnel option was ranked as the best choice by borough engineers.
The project, which is part of the Gettysburg Inner Loop bicycle-pedestrian trail, and supported by the Healthy Adams Bicycle/Pedestrian, Inc (HABPI), is currently in the design phase and would take at least 2 years to complete.
The expressed goal of the council was to encourage biking and walking and reduce the number of cars that use the alley as a shortcut.
The council noted that the current situation requiring passing cars to move off the alley onto private property was legally problematic.
In public comment, Gettysburg resident Rayna Cooper said the inner loop would increase walking “We know that walking is the easiest way to increase physical activity and it requires no special equipment,” she said. Cooper said the perceived walkability and safety of a neighborhood increased the likelihood people would walk and bicycle. “This project makes our community safer and more vibrant,” she said.
Orrtanna resident Michael Bramel also spoke out in favor of the proposed changes to the alley. Bramel said he had conducted informal experiments comparing driving on Chambersburg St. versus Racehorse Alley and found that in most cases taking the alley did not actually save time. Bramel also said bicycle trails can bring financial benefits to communities.
HAPBI President Sarah Kipp said she approved of making Racehorse Alley one-way and said it would be a good place to try out methods to help increase walking and bicycling in the borough.
HAPBI member Steve Niebler also spoke in favor of the proposed changes. “You all have an opportunity here to create a world-class bicycling destination,” he said. “If you are brave enough and bold enough to pull it off.”
Council Vice President Matt Moon, who chaired the meeting in the absence of President Heyser, said the proposed project had “a ton of aspects to it” including stormwater management, repaving, and lighting.
Moon noted that the current two-way traffic requires vehicles that are passing to leave the alley and move onto private property. “that is not something we can legally condone,” he said.
Moon said the PA vehicle code states that alleys are not intended for through-vehicle traffic and that Gettysburg itself defines alleys the same way.
Moon said the question was how to move forward in the safest way. “If we want people to be safe we have to put the infrastructure in place,” he said. Moon noted the multiple funding streams that support the project and said the grants were saving money.
“I’m a fan of the funnel,” said Moon. “I think the funnel accomplishes the goal of eliminating the most vehicle traffic and making the safest environment.”
Moon said the funnel would reduce car traffic both in the morning and the evening and make it more difficult for cars to use the alley.
Councilmember Chad-Alan Carr agreed the funnel was the best option. “Let’s do something to make it best for bicycles and pedestrians. It’s not supposed to be a quick way to get through town,” he said. Carr said he had talked with businesses on the alley who also preferred the funnel as an option, and that he thought the change would make the borough more attractive for tourists interested in outdoor activities.
Councilmember Judie Butterfield said she favored the funnel option.
Chris Berger said he was most interested in the one-way West option. “This is a big system we’re trying to do here,” he said. “I want to do what’s best for the community; not necessarily what’s safest for pedestrians and bicyclists,” he said.
Patti Lawson spoke in favor of walking and bicycling in the borough. “Gettysburg is very much a pedestrian-bicycle friendly community,” she said. “I very much support the funnel; I could get behind a one-way if that’s what we need to do to reach consensus.”
Moon said he had talked with John Lawver and Heyser who were in favor of making no changes, but noted the legal issues made that choice a difficult one.
Overall the council concluded that changes needed to be made and that the funnel option was preferred.
Borough manager Charles Gable said it was important to move forward with the design phase to be “shovel ready” for future grants that might be awarded.
The council will prepare a motion to accept the funnel option for consideration at the July meeting.
Moon said if there was a problem with the proposed changes in the future it would be easy for the borough to remove the one-way signs.