Some 200 people packed into a room in Midtown Harrisburg on Thursday night to hear the city present two designs for converting much of N. 2nd Street to two-way traffic.
Mayor Eric Papenfuse led off the discussion at HACC Midtown 2, explaining to attendees that the two concepts were similar with one fundamental difference.
Each design has one lane northbound and one lane southbound along the two-mile stretch of N. 2nd from Forster to Division streets. However, one has a protected bike lane, while the other has left-turn lanes with medians to assist pedestrian crossings.
“We hope to emerge from this meeting with a consensus,” he said. “I don’t know if there will or won’t be.”
Much of 2nd Street became a three-lane, mini-highway in the 1950s to accommodate commuter traffic. With the two-way redesign, the city hopes to slow traffic, improve safety and return the road back to neighborhood use.
This was the second public meeting for the project, attracting about double the attendance from the first one last year. This was the final meeting before the city decides on a design. The $5.7 million project is expected to begin next year and be completed in 2021.
Andy Hughes was one 2nd Street resident who said that he preferred the concept that included the left-turn lanes with the medians, but added that he regarded “both concepts as a positive step.”
Dick Norford, a founding member of Bike Harrisburg, advocated for the second option, which includes a bike lane sheltered from the parking area. He said that a bike lane going northbound on 2nd Street would complement the southbound bike lane on neighboring Front Street.
“It makes sense if we have a lane going inbound and one going outbound,” he said.
Besides debate over the two competing concepts, residents had much to say about two other issues: a loss of street parking and the inclusion of roundabouts.
In his presentation, city Engineer Wayne Martin explained that the city would lose several dozen parking spaces because of the project. Those losses, though, mostly are not attributable to the designs but because the city needs to rebuild intersections to be compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
In all, the project will result in a loss of 11 to 13 percent of spaces along the street.
Following the presentation, attendees examined large-scale renderings of the street and left numerous comments—some that complained about the loss of parking spots but many more that supported the plan.
“I don’t know if the arguments about losing parking are legitimate,” said Midtown resident Steve Cline. “You’re losing about one spot per block. It’s nothing.”
The city is also proposing replacing traffic lights with roundabouts at several intersections, including at Verbeke and Reily streets.
Comments seemed mixed on the roundabouts, with competing comments both for and against the traffic circles. Papenfuse added that the city had not yet made a decision on how many will be built to replace traffic lights.
All in all, the crowd seemed to strongly favor the changeover.
“I’m for anything that will slow down the traffic and create a more walkable city,” said Green Street resident Tom Robel.
Ross Willard, founder of Recycle Bicycle, concurred.
“I like both concepts,” he said. “I originally wanted a two-way bike lane, but it’s all good.”
Following the meeting, Papenfuse said that he was “impressed” by the turnout, saying the event had the largest attendance of any city meeting in memory.
“From a public meeting standpoint, I think it was successful and that the community really came together,” he said. “You had lots of positive energy.”
For more information about the project, visit the city’s Vision Zero website.