And it happened again.
Yesterday, on the way from my house to Sunday breakfast at Yellow Bird Café, something caught my eye as I looked down Forster Street.
Flashing lights, police vehicles, a few wrecked cars.
I’ve seen this before. In fact, it was the second time in three days that I witnessed the aftermath of a crash at the foot of the Harvey Taylor Bridge. On Thursday morning, a multi-vehicle accident caused a big mess in the eastbound lanes just off the bridge, calling out the usual regiment of police, ambulances and fire trucks.
I have to give our emergency workers credit. They’ve become quite efficient at clearing that intersection since, I suppose, practice makes perfect.
Over the years, I’ve seen the stone Miller’s Mutual sign at the corner wiped out and traffic lights and pedestrian signals on all corners—as well as on the small traffic island—destroyed. Street signs have been knocked down so many times I’ve lost track.
An analysis of PennDOT data shows 14 automobile accidents just in 2016 directly in the intersection, with several others very close by. And many of these weren’t mere fender-benders, as six people ended up being taken to the hospital.
But it’s not just vehicle-on-vehicle crashes. In June, TheBurg ran a lengthy story about the most dangerous intersections in Harrisburg for pedestrians, and this intersection was among those. In fact, the person we featured in the story was hit in the crosswalk on Forster Street.
It’s time to do something.
In my personal experience as a pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist, I’ve witnessed three recurring problems at the intersection of Front and Forster streets, both state roads.
First, motorists run the light on Front Street. Secondly, drivers make illegal left-hand turns from Forster onto Front to avoid crossing the bridge. Finally, worst of all, cars exiting the bridge run the light at a high rate of speed, losing their chancy bet with the changing traffic signal.
In the 1950s, the state and the city, with the Taylor Bridge completed, together turned once-quaint Front and Forster streets into multi-lane urban highways. We can’t undo that mistake easily. However, we must try to make the intersection safer to avoid the constant accidents.
Certainly, better enforcement of traffic rules would help, as a well-positioned cop could pick off people all day speeding through the intersection, running red lights and making illegal turns.
Absent that, PennDOT needs to find ways to reduce traffic speeds on the Harvey Taylor Bridge as it approaches Front Street. There are numerous ways to do this, including, though not limited to, a reduced bridge speed, a “your speed” sign, flashing lights and an altered road surface.
No, this won’t stop everyone from thinking a yellow light is a reason to speed up, not slow down. But it may stop some drivers from blasting through a red light at 60 mph, leaving in their wake fragments of cars, poles and people.
Author: Lawrance Binda