Harrisburg City Council likely will have the final word on whether to retain or remove stop signs along N. 3rd Street.
That was the main takeaway from a lengthy meeting tonight, which was called specifically to discuss the proposed removal of stop signs at four N. 3rd Street intersections--at Boyd, Harris, Kelker and Emerald streets.
“I serve at the pleasure of City Council,” said city Engineer Wayne Martin. “I hope to get guidance from City Council.”
Martin’s assertion came near the end of a three-hour-plus meeting, which was attended by about 40 residents, many of whom spoke out against the planned removals.
Council President Wanda Williams then said that, before any action could be considered by council, she had to confer with city Solicitor Neil Grover, who was not present at the meeting, as action may necessitate changes to the city’s traffic control map. She said that council may schedule another special meeting on the issue before the next regular legislative session on Sept. 17.
The meeting began with a presentation by Martin, who explained that the stop signs were no longer needed at those intersections. The ongoing 3rd Street multimodal project, he said, would calm traffic along the street due to the project’s numerous curb extensions and bump-outs.
In addition, he said that, with the changes to 3rd Street, the intersections do not warrant stop signs. Per federal and state guidelines, stop signs should be used to control traffic, not slow it down, he said, adding that, in the past, the signs only served to assist sight distance.
“Going back in time, the only warrant that was met was sight distance,” he said. “We installed bump outs to improve sight distance, so there are no sight distance issues.”
Martin also said that stop signs can actually create more dangerous intersections where they’re not warranted.
“Leaving those stop signs in there when they’re not warranted will cause more crashes,” he said.
Despite Martin’s presentation, dozens of residents urged the city to retain the stop signs at those intersections, almost uniformly saying that removing them would create a more dangerous street.
“Everyone understands what stop means,” said Angela Johnson, a Green Street resident. “You have people who are afraid for their safety, who are afraid for their children, who are afraid for their pets.”
The signs were due to be removed on Friday. But, according to Martin, the removal has been rescheduled because the 3rd Street repaving project was delayed due to rain.
Former council President Gloria Martin-Roberts, an Uptown resident, advocated for retaining the stop signs and for greater traffic enforcement at the intersections, as the signs are routinely disregarded currently, she said.
“I’m telling you this is a bad idea,” she said. “If you remove the stop signs, pedestrians will be harmed. This is very, very, very serious.”
In their comments, most council members seemed to side with the residents who objected to removing the signs.
Councilman Dave Madsen said that he helped circulate a petition both online and in person objecting to removal of the signs.
“I can tell you there was overwhelming support among residents for keeping the signs at Kelker and Harris streets,” he said.
Councilman Ben Allatt preached taking a long-term view. He said that, even if 3rd Street does not warrant stop signs today, it may in the near future, given the proposal to return much of N. 2nd Street to two-way traffic, increased development in the area and more people moving into Midtown.
“I think it’s really quite premature to go ahead with the removal of stop signs until we find out what traffic patterns will be in place in the near future and the far future,” he said.