Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg hires consultant in effort to rein in I-83 widening proposal

Aerial view of I-83 in Harrisburg from 19th Street to the Susquehanna River. A PennDOT proposal would double the width of this segment of the highway.

A split Harrisburg City Council on Tuesday night approved hiring an outside consultant to study the proposed expansion of I-83, with an eye towards possibly slimming down the project.

Council voted 5-2 to spend $72,500 to hire Harrisburg-based Kittelson & Associates to conduct a traffic and community impact study of the current state proposal to double the number of lanes running through the city.

The study would review PennDOT’s widening plan, which envisions as many as 12 lanes and new interchanges, and determine whether alternatives exist to reduce the project’s footprint and the impact on the community.

Before the vote, Councilman Westburn Majors said that the city had received a letter from PennDOT stating that it would take into consideration Kittelson’s findings.

“It looks like they’re open to further analysis,” Majors said following the meeting. “They trust Kittelson to be a straight shooter with them.”

At a work session last week, several council members requested such a letter prior to the vote today.

The letter wasn’t enough to sway council President Wanda Williams, who maintained her opposition, which she first publicly expressed at the work session. Before voting no, she reiterated that she believed that the expenditure was a waste—that it ultimately wouldn’t change PennDOT’s plans and that the money would be better used elsewhere.

“I don’t think that the city of Harrisburg should be committing $72,000 when I have potholes all up and down my streets and my pools haven’t opened yet,” she said.

PennDOT’s current widening plan would have a significant impact on areas of South Harrisburg, displacing as many as 28 city residences and 20 businesses.

The city plans to pay for the study from its large fund balance, Mayor Eric Papenfuse has said previously.

In other decisions on Tuesday night, City Council:

  • Unanimously approved the final land development plan for Harrisburg University’s new academic tower, hotel and restaurant, which allows HU to begin the project at S. 3rd and Chestnut streets.
  • Voted 4-3 against the appointment of Franchon Beeks as the city’s new director of Housing and Development.
  • Voted 5-2 for the appointment of David Baker as the city’s new director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities.
  • Unanimously passed a resolution closing several “paper” streets (streets that exist only on paper) on the future site of the state Archives building near N. 6th and Hamilton streets.
  • Unanimously passed a resolution supporting U.S. congressional efforts to enact the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019.
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