Community Comment: Making the State Street neighborhood safe for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles

State Street in Harrisburg

State Street, east of the Capitol, is a vital neighborhood in Harrisburg, home to thousands of city residents who live, work, go to school, pray and play. It is also a major transportation corridor that connects the State Street community to downtown Harrisburg, Penbrook, and communities east of the city.

There is no doubt that State Street, as it is currently configured, is dangerous. It has a long record of tragic pedestrian deaths, numerous vehicular accidents, and a continuing problem of a high percentage of vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour. The 76-foot-wide street is too wide for many pedestrians, especially children, the physically disabled and the elderly, to cross safely during a normal traffic light cycle.

The City of Harrisburg and PennDOT District 8 have a unique opportunity to transform State Street into a modern, multimodal century transportation corridor that improves the quality of life for residents of State Street by calming traffic and improving safety for all pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. It is also extremely important that resident parking be preserved and safe drop-off/pick-up areas be created at each of the many schools and churches located along State Street.

Over the past several years, Pennsylvania and our nation has seen a dramatic increase in pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities. These are attributable both to increased highway speeds and the widespread use of larger and heavier motor vehicles, such as SUVs. Therefore, most important in any redesign of State Street is to design the roadway to calm the flow of traffic to reduce speeding, improve visibility for pedestrians and cyclists, shorten the distance pedestrians must travel to cross the roadway, ensure safety halfway. pedestrian “islands” and provides protected lanes for cyclists.

As we transition to a post-pandemic world, a large percentage of the workforce will continue to work from home, which will reduce the number of trips to and from their place of work and reduce the planned increases in capacity needed on suburban routes. This means that our transportation networks, our parking lots and our workplaces must adapt to reflect this new reality. Additionally, emerging micro-mobility devices, such as pedal-assist bicycles, scooters, and other battery-powered personal transportation vehicles, are increasingly being used for transportation that requires road infrastructure, such as tracks. protected cycle paths, to support their safe use.

The experience of neighboring cities that have invested in improving road safety by addressing cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, New York and many others, has shown that these investments improve the overall quality of life in neighborhoods of these cities.

Cities across the country have already implemented these road designs and demonstrated that they work. Philadelphia has learned a lot from its experiences in redesigning its roads to improve the quality of life for its residents while improving the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. A 2021 study commissioned by the Philadelphia Department of Streets documents these benefits. Harrisburg should learn from the years of experience of these other communities.

The State Street community deserves to have its “Main Street” redesigned and built to make it safe for efficient multi-modal travel while providing convenient parking for residents and visitors. As the eastern gateway to and from the city, it must also continue to provide safe and efficient travel for those passing through the State Street community. As a state-owned highway, city leaders and PennDOT must work together to address and carefully balance community concerns with those of the entire city and neighboring communities.

Ross Willard is the founder and maintenance manager of Recycle Bicycle Harrisburg.

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