Thursday, July 31, 2008

Planners Suggest Harrisburg Pike Improvements

County planners and their consultant, KCI, held a public presentation, Wednesday night, to present the preliminary findings of their Harrisburg Pike Land Use Study and to solicit public feedback.

The stated purpose of the study is to: improve the overall carrying capacity of the Harrisburg Pike Corridor and enhance the safety for all users, incorporate alternative modes of transportation in new development and redevelopment along the Harrisburg Pike corridor, and to preserve the unique qualities of the urban and suburban land patterns and the community values and environmental resources of the project area.

How exactly do they propose to do this?

Among the 'higher priority' recommendations: coordinating and re-timing traffic signals between Rohrerstown Road and Prince Street, adding traffic signals between Rohrerstown Rd. and State Road, extending sidewalk all the way from Prince Street to State Road, adding turning lanes and/or through lanes at most of the busiest intersections, extending and increasing the frequency of bus service along the route, installing Park-and-Ride facilities at Park City Center and Lancaster General Hospital Health Campus, improving signage, and installing sidewalk pedestrian access between Dillerville Road West and Long's Park.

A full draft report from the steering committee with their recommendations is available here, along with a number of maps.

The study indicates that Harrisburg Pike carries as many as 28,000 vehicles into and out of downtown Lancaster every day. Many areas of the corridor currently see as many as 600 vehicles per hour and that number is expected to at least double by 2030, according to KCI.

Hence the need to address such issues as congestion and pedestrian safety with the recommended measures.

Another recommendation is the implementation of "access management" techniques designed to limit access to the major corridor to improve traffic flow and the promote the safety of both motorists and pedestrians.

One controversial access management technique, which the study group recommends, involves the installation of non-traversable medians. The study group writes:

"Medians can reduce the likelihood of head-on crashes, provide traffic calming benefits, promote pedestrian safety and can aid in prohibiting left-turn movements. The recently installed median between College Avenue and Race Street is a good example of this application. Other areas along Harrisburg Pike where this type of treatment may be warranted would be in select areas from Prince Street to College Avenue where left-turn access is not needed, from Good Drive to Rohrerstown Road where an existing 5-lane section exists but left-turns are not needed at all locations, and in the future from Rohrerstown Road to State Road depending on how land development occurs."

Literature made available from the Federal Highway Administration cites various reports, concluding, "According an analysis of crash data in seven states, raised medians reduce crashes by over 40 percent in urban areas and over 60 percent in rural areas."

It is important to note, however, that these recommended changes are neither immediate nor necessarily binding. The study is attempting to contemplate growth needs as many as 30 years out. Moreover, it is the County, the relevant municipalities, and private developers who will be encouraged to undertake these projects. The County Planning Commission's role is strictly advisory. This plan will serve to set the tone and strongly influence which development plans, for example, the County and City Planning Commissions are likely to give approval to.

The next step in the process comes in September when the steering committee will adopt the final Harrisburg Pike long-range transportation plan. The plan would then be adopted by the County and municipalities in October-November.

As for Wednesday night's meeting, some 40 persons were in attendance. The crowd was generally receptive, with a few expressing concern about impacts to their property or a desire to see further provisions for cyclists and pedestrians.

Dave Royer, the Director of Transportation Planning for the County Planning Commission, told NewsLanc that the study cost $150,000, 80% of which came from federal funding, 10% came from the County, and 10% came from business interests along Harrisburg Pike.

The NewsLanc reporter noted that insiders Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster General Hospital, and the High Real Estate Group are represented on the 29-member steering committee while other local businesses and developers seemingly were not extended such an invitation.

Of course, each of those entities has or is developing property along the corridor, but that raises an interesting chicken-and-egg question. Is High given a seat at the table because of its status as a real estate developer? Or do opportunities to develop real estate fall into High's lap due to its insider's seat at the table? Clearly, being a member of the inner elite opens many doors.