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In virtual public meeting, Harrisburg council takes step to redesign, improve safety on State Street

A screen shot of Harrisburg City Council’s virtual legislative session on Tuesday night

Harrisburg took a step towards making State Street safer for pedestrians on Tuesday, agreeing to allocate money for a final road design.

City Council unanimously approved hiring civil engineering firm Wallace, Montgomery & Associates to complete the “State Street Rapid Response” design, including an expenditure of $57,500.

“State Street is the most dangerous street in the city,” city Engineer Wayne Martin told council members, who held their first legislative session in more than a month, conducted through Zoom teleconferencing technology.

Over a year ago, Harrisburg released its “Vision Zero” action plan for the city, with a goal of eliminating pedestrian deaths in the city. The initiative came after numerous pedestrian fatalities on city streets, especially on state-owned State Street on Allison Hill.

Harrisburg made improving State Street its number-one “Vision Zero” priority, but its plan was rejected at the district level by the state Department of Transportation.

Martin explained that the city then appealed directly to PennDOT’s top officials, including the former and interim transportation secretaries.

“We agreed on the configuration for the State Street corridor, a path forward, if you will,” Martin said.

Wallace Montgomery now needs to finalize the engineering design. The total project includes numerous changes to State Street, including a narrower road, bus stop improvements, new ADA ramps, new curbing and lighting.

“Narrowing that road and reducing the crossing distance for pedestrians is really what needs to be done, and that’s what finally everyone agrees to,” Martin said. “That’s what the public has known right away.”

The $57,500 design expense will come from the city’s engineering budget and includes design revisions, highway occupancy permits and the cost of a public meeting, Martin said.

The public meeting was originally slated for this month. Martin said that he now hopes for a June meeting, but added that the timing is uncertain due to continuing social distancing requirements.

The city, Martin said, still must firm up a final cost for the actual roadwork and identify funding sources. He said that he hoped to fund the project through state and other grant monies.

“PennDOT has not said they would pay for some of these improvements, but they haven’t rejected it either,” he said. “They left that door open. So, we will seek funding from PennDOT and other sources of funds.”

Martin said that he hopes the actual roadwork will begin in the late summer, but the timing depends upon lifting COVID-19 mitigation restrictions.

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