As a complement to yesterday’s post on PennDOT’s hostility to local transportation planning priorities, here’s something amazing that might happen. JD Malone says Easton, PA might vote to take a key downtown road back from the state in order to stop the PennDOT madness:
Centre Square might be the heart of Easton, but it’s maintained by Harrisburg.
That relationship is likely to end as City Council will decide Wednesday night on whether to take back Northampton Street — from Seventh Street to Larry Holmes Drive, including historic Centre Square. The take-back would come with $665,000 from PennDOT for improvements.
Council and Mayor Sal Panto Jr. have vented in the past how state control over Centre Square has held back improvements of the curbing, handicap accessibility and traffic pattern control.
Seizure of the road would mirror Easton’s take-back of Larry Holmes Drive, where the city narrowed the roadway, built a partition for visitors to Scott Park, and generally made the riverside road more appealing.
Becky Bradley, who has since moved to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, God bless her, did an amazing job with the Larry Holmes Drive road diet. The level of service on that road used to really high, and people would speed around it at highway speeds. The road diet put in some planters and parking spaces, and now it’s much calmer and more walkable. This corresponded with some waterfront park improvements, and anecdotal evidence suggests that there’s more pedestrian traffic in that area now. Success!
Centre Square in Easton is already pretty awesome, but it could be even better with some traffic coordination improvements, and especially if they got rid of the parking spaces in the circle and extended the pedestrian areas in the four corners out to the circle edge. They keep having these big public events in the circle where they close off those parking spaces and turn them into temporary pedestrian zones, and unsurprisingly it’s no big deal. Logically, it follows that if it’s not a big deal to lose those spaces at peak times during big public events, then it really won’t be a big deal to lose them the rest of the time.
Another way to get even more pedestrian space here would be to revamp the landscape architecture inside the circle. Easton uses this space for the Farmer’s Market and other events, and there would be even more usable space if they reconfigured the pedestrian seating and green spaces. Check out Kevin Mingura’s photo and you’ll see that the weird grass patches, which nobody really uses, take up most of the space. This might be a good subject for a contest where people can submit redesign ideas:
Maybe some people like the grass, and maybe others agree with me that it’s time for an update, but the only way to have that discussion is to first take back control of Northampton Street from the state.