Harrisburg has one of highest rates of pedestrian fatalities and injuries in the nation, a ranking that the city hopes to reverse with its new “Vision Zero” action plan.
Surrounded by public officials, Mayor Eric Papenfuse today introduced the city’s approach to improving road safety, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The plan’s action items are wide-ranging and long-term, with the ultimate goal of eliminating vehicle-related deaths in the city by 2030.
“This is a fundamental commitment to safety for all street users,” Papenfuse said. “It really is a transformative document.”
Harrisburg has a long way to go to reach its goal of zero fatalities.
Over the past five years, 19 pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists have died on city streets, and another 105 have suffered serious injury, according to the report. In central Pennsylvania as a whole, pedestrian deaths have skyrocketed over the past 20 years, from eight in 1998 to 23 last year.
Vision Zero is a nationwide road safety effort that has been adopted by many cities. Harrisburg initiated its own program last year, following a rash of pedestrian deaths on a short stretch of State Street in Allison Hill.
The “action plan” released today offers a look at why the city opted to create a Vision Zero plan, the process leading up to it and the steps it expects to take to implement it.
The report particularly focuses on the plan for the first year, listing numerous steps and action items for evaluation, education, engineering and enforcement.
Several projects are already in the works.
Last year, the city began its “rapid response” project along State Street, upgrading lighting and traffic signals, among other actions.
Going forward, in conjunction with PennDOT, the city plans more extensive changes to the wide, state-owned road, which, at times, stretches to seven lanes. These include reducing the number of travel lanes, adding a sheltered bicycle lane and redesigning crosswalks.
When the changes to State Street are done, commuters likely will experience “a few extra minutes” of travel time, but the result will be a much safer road for non-motorists, Papenfuse said.
“This is the epitome of rebalancing roadway use,” said city Engineer Wayne Martin.
The project is intended to serve as a pilot, so that changes can be measured and evaluated.
“We’re going to real-time test these concepts and measure these concepts before we make them permanent,” Papenfuse said.
The process of converting much of N. 2nd Street, from Forster to Division street, back to two-way traffic also is underway.
Last year, the city held a public meeting to explain broad concepts and get resident input, a meeting attended by more than 100 people. The project is currently in the design phase, and another meeting will be held this spring or summer to update residents on the project, Papenfuse said.
Other major road projects, which will incorporate pedestrian safety concepts under Vision Zero, include constructing a roundabout at the intersection of Mulberry and Derry streets at MulDer Square (construction in 2020) and reconstructing N. 7th Street from Herr to Reily streets, adding a roundabout, a cycle track and two mid-block pedestrian crossings, among other changes (construction from summer 2019 to fall 2020).
The city also would like to reconstruct two other high-accident intersections, one at Forster and Front streets and another at Cameron and Maclay streets. In both cases, concepts were developed last year, and the city currently is seeking funding for final design and construction.
“Fundamentally, what we’re talking about here is a guiding document for the city of Harrisburg,” Papenfuse said. “This is correcting a failed auto-centric approach to urban planning.”
For more information on Vision Zero and to read Harrisburg’s action plan, visit www.visionzerohbg.org.