Should Harrisburg proceed with a plan to remove stop signs at two intersections on N. 3rd Street?
At a City Council meeting on Tuesday night, several residents spoke out against the planned removal next week of signs at the corners of N. 3rd and Kelker streets and N. 3rd and Emerald streets.
“There are multiple playgrounds there,” said 3rd Street resident Laura Harding. “I see kids running across the street every day, multiple times a day without checking both ways.”
Currently, both intersections are all-way stops. The planned removals are only for 3rd Street. The stop signs halting traffic traveling along Kelker and Emerald streets would remain.
Residents’ remarks echoed similar concerns voiced on local social media pages in recent days, and council members said they also had been contacted by residents.
“There have been numerous emails and phone calls regarding the removal of the 3rd Street stop signs,” said council President Wanda Williams, who then announced a council hearing on the issue for Tuesday, Aug. 20, three days before the signs are slated to be removed.
Last week, residents began to notice a second sign attached to the stop sign poles, notifying people that the signs would be eliminated.
This prompted concerns about safety at those intersections, as the large Neighborhood Center playground is at the intersection at Kelker and the busy Emerald Chinese Restaurant is at the intersection at Emerald.
Some social media posts also posited a theory that the sign removals were part of the planned conversion of much of N. 2nd Street to two-way traffic, presumably because traffic displaced from 2nd Street would flow faster along the 3rd Street corridor.
However, according to city Business Administrator Marc Woolley, that is not the case. He said that the decision to remove those stop signs was made back in 2016 when the final design for the 3rd Street multimodal project was approved and that it had nothing to do with 2nd Street.
The city, he said, decided that those stop signs would no longer be necessary because the 3rd Street redesign, which includes numerous bump-outs at intersections, would have enough of a calming effect on through-traffic. And that, he said, has happened.
“It was determined that these were overused stop signs,” he said. “The bump-outs did work.”
Today, city Engineer Wayne Martin echoed that view, saying the bump-outs already have led to slower traffic along 3rd Street.
Martin also said that the signs violate the Federal Highway Administration’s “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices,” which specifies standards for road signs. The intersections do not meet the requirements for stop signs, which must conform to certain standards for traffic volume, accidents and other criteria, he said.
He added that stop signs at intersections that don’t warrant them actually make intersections more dangerous because motorists don’t expect them, brake suddenly, and may get rear-ended.
The Kelker Street and Emerald Street signs aren’t the only ones slated for removal. Martin said that the city also plans to remove the signs at N. 3rd and Harris streets and N. 3rd and Boyd streets once those streets are repaved. The Boyd Street intersection, which is actually now a pedestrian walkway, would be replaced with a yield sign.
Martin said that he would explain the city’s reasoning for the sign removals at the council meeting on Tuesday.
“The stop signs that were installed were never warranted,” he said. “What was needed was traffic-calming, which we now have because of the bump-outs.”
Nonetheless, the city is willing to listen to the concerns of residents, Woolley said.
“We understand that people are concerned with schools and playgrounds,” he said. “We’ll take a look at that.”
The special City Council meeting on road safety and streets signs is slated for Tuesday, Aug. 20, 5:30 p.m., in City Council chambers, 10 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg.