about the issue

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I took a “long cut” to avoid the single lane of traffic snaking up Cochran Road from Virginia Manor shops to Bower Hill Road. I turned left on Parker, right on McCann, crossed Beverly, made a right on Marlin East, left on Akron, right on Ralston, left on Bower Hill, right on South Meadowcroft, left on Florence (don’t try that one with a stick shift) and breezed home along a practically deserted Washington Road.

Depending on where the traffic jams are on Cochran, there are dozens of alternate routes, if you know Mt. Lebanon’s byways.

My driving patterns are nothing to brag about, but I’m not apologizing either. These are public streets, and Mt. Lebanon has a lot of traffic. Most of us would rather keep moving than sit still. The bulk of the people fuming in that long queue on Cochran probably are newcomers or non-residents who don’t know a better way.

Even the cul-de-sac I live on has neighborhood traffic problems. Despite “Dead End” signs at the entrance, cars speed down our street at 40 mph, thinking it’s a short cut to Mt. Lebanon Boulevard. One driver slammed into a house at the end of the street. Another killed my cat while turning around in our driveway. And a bus once got stuck at the end of the circle.

If there are people so devoted to keeping traffic off local streets that they will sit through five light changes to reach the Bower Hill/Cochran intersection, they deserve a commendation. But clearly, there are not enough of these good folks to mitigate Mt. Lebanon’s traffic problems—most of which, as the police department will confirm, are caused by Mt. Lebanon residents.

That’s why Mt. Lebanon has a traffic board—a group of seven appointed volunteers who work with staff liaison Lt. Mike McMurtrie of the police department, commission liaison John Bendel and the traffic engineer to advise local elected officials about traffic issues. That’s why the commission recently approved a new policy recommended by the traffic board that formalizes how residents can request traffic calming plans for their neighborhoods and defines how those plans will be prioritized and ultimately funded.

The new policy (see Merle Jantz’s story, “Traffic Management”) doesn’t promise to  keep all drivers on main roads, but it will ensure that pressing traffic problems are addressed before minor annoyances. And the neighborhood traffic plans that result should discourage drivers from cutting through residential streets, help regulate speed and raise everyone’s awareness of the driver and pedestrian safety issues that heavy traffic raises.

In the meantime, whether or not there are traffic calming measures in place in the neighborhood you are driving through—most likely your own—please drive slowly and defensively, like a good neighbor.