New traffic lights should slow traffic on Forster Street

Investigators

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — In the past four years, 25 people have died on Harrisburg City roads as a result of a crash or being hit by a car. In November 2018, the city made a commitment to make the roads safer for everyone through Vision Zero.

Almost two years into the project, the city has already implemented low cost safety improvements.

“Reflective backplates are behind the traffic signals so they are not as obscure, overhead street name signs, some traffic signals are 8-inch heads and we have converted to 12 heads, pedestrian countdowns, and high visibility crosswalks,” said Wayne Martin, Harrisburg City engineer.

Martin says Front and Forster streets were one of the most crash-prone intersections in the entire city. In an effort to improve safety on Forster Street, the city installed optically programmed signal heads along Forster Street from Front Street to Third Street.

“If you are approaching a signalized intersection with the optically programmed signal you may not see the red or green bulb until you are within the approach distance. Based on the data, we felt that drivers were looking at signals beyond Front and Forster when you are traveling across the Harvey Taylor bridge at 50 mph, so the new lights tend to slow traffic down to the posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour,” Martin said.

State Street is another area that needed improvements. Martin says five fatalities on State Street happened during twilight hours so lighting changes have been made.

“I don’t know if anyone has noticed but the lights used to be side by side. We turned them so that more of the light illuminates the roadway. It may not look look as attractive but it certainly functions better,” said Martin.

New signals and push button crosswalks have also been installed and more safety improvements are being planned.

“I am happy to say PennDOT has agreed to fund and support different changes so we are basically in the design phase right now so those will be very dramatic changes to State Street including road diet and bike lanes, ” Martin said.

Bike lanes have already been added to Sixth Street. Traffic near Benjamin Franklin Elementary school was also changed to makes things safer.

“We were able to put in pickup loading zones for school buses in front of the school. We also added some on-street parking. So far, that has been a very successful project,” Martin said.

The goal of Vision Zero is to have zero fatalities and the changes appear to be working. There was a decrease in fatalities from 2018 to 2019.

“We have dropped from 11 fatalities to two,” Martin said. “The goal is to have zero fatalities by 2030.”

One of the big projects coming up in 2021 is turning Second Street, between Forester to Division streets, into a two-way street. A mini-roundabout is also going in at 13th and Derry streets.

Roadway safety improvements are funded through PennDOT grants and the city’s general fund.

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