Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

“Rapid Response” measures proposed, meant to improve pedestrian safety on State Street

Attendees (and some media) from tonight’s Vision Zero meeting in Harrisburg.

The 17,000 drivers who traverse Harrisburg’s State Street every weekday could soon see changes to the busy thoroughfare.

Harrisburg’s Planning Bureau tonight unveiled new data from its State Street “rapid response” project, which aims to curb pedestrian fatalities on the five-lane road that connects the city to Penbrook. Pedestrians could see new safety features on State Street as early as September, said city Engineer Wayne Martin.

Martin also confirmed that the State Street project won’t be curtailed by the recent austerity measures imposed by Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, which include a freeze on all non-essential spending and some capital expenditures.

The stretch of State Street east of the Capitol Complex was the site of four pedestrian fatalities and one cyclist fatality in the past year.

The spate of accidents was part of a citywide uptick in traffic-related deaths. Vehicle-related fatalities have quadrupled in the city in the last four years, according to PennDOT data, rising from two deaths in 2013 to eight deaths in 2017.

In April, the city announced a partnership with Eluminat, a Washington-D.C.-based planning firm, and Wallace Montgomery, a construction engineering company in Mechanicsburg, to roll out Vision Zero, a plan to eliminate traffic-related deaths in Harrisburg in 10 years.

The first step of that long-term project is the State Street rapid response, which aims to determine the causes of pedestrian accidents and implement data-driven solutions.

With one pedestrian dying every three months on the five-lane road, the city couldn’t wait any longer to take action, Martin said.

Members of the city’s Vision Zero team presented preliminary data tonight at the fire station at 16th and State streets.

Among other findings, the team determined that almost half of State Street north of the Capitol has “undesirable” low-light levels.

They also found that speed violations increase as vehicles travel eastbound – 90 percent of vehicles travel at below the speed limit while crossing State and Academy Streets, but only 43 percent obey the speed limit by the time they hit 19th and State.

After collecting more public input at tonight’s meeting, the Vision Zero team will recommend low-cost, “quick build” solutions to increase pedestrian safety.

According to Andy Duerr, an associate at Wallace Montgomery, those fixes could include median refuge islands – simple, protected spaces in the center of the road where pedestrians can wait for traffic to pass mid-crossing.

The city could also install more high-powered street lamp bulbs to increase visibility, re-program stoplight sequences or create raised crosswalks to calm traffic.

The team hopes to submit recommendations to the city within the next six weeks. They expect that the new infrastructure won’t cost more than $25,000.

“When I say low cost, I mean low cost,” Martin said. “These are quick-hit, emergency projects.”

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