Takeaways From the Harrisburg Area’s New Transportation Spending Plan

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The Harrisburg Area Transportation Study Coordinating Committee’s list of approved projects were released last week.

Major projects on the 2015-2018 TIP include, but are not limited to:

• $146.5 million in roadway projects, including signal improvements, resurfacing and safety improvements

 • $120.7 million in Interstate projects, including work on Interstate 83 and the Eisenhower Interchange

• $85 million in transit funding for Capital Area Transit bus service and the Middletown Amtrak Station relocation project

• $82.4 million in bridge preservation, rehabilitation and replacement

• $8 million for improvements to Harrisburg City streets

• $7.8 million in bicycle and pedestrian improvements, including trails

FWIW, here are my 4 takeway’s

1. The funding level for multimodal transportation is impressive

A total of $175 million will be going towards mulitmodal transportation improvements in the four year plan. When compared to the total being slated for expenditure it works out that about one third of the money being spent on non-auto exclusive infrastructure. For Central PA, I think it’s fair to say that’s pretty good.

2. Cumberland County is incredibly short sighted

Floundering Cumberland County, represented by Jim Hertzler, actually voted against the entire spending plan.

Hertzler ultimately voted against the entire transportation plan – 109 road, bridge and highway projects stretching through 2018 – because of the pedestrian bridge’s inclusion.
“This is $6.6 million that could also be used to support bridge and road projects throughout (the area),” he said.

The 6.6 million for the CVRR project Hertzler is quoted complaining about makes up only 1% of the plan’s total outlays. Why would he oppose the plan on this basis alone?

Sure as he states there are other projects, but that is what budgeting is about, picking priorities. This project serves a particularly large number of people in both Dauphin and Cumberland Counties with potential to significantly  lower the number of cars on the road and improve downtown vibrancy, not to mention resident’s health.

In voting against the plan for that specific reason Hertzler is showing is disregard for the best interest of his county’s west shore boroughs and it’s residents.

3. Accompanying local action must be taken to receive the full benefit of multimodal improvements

These projects are true improvements for the munis they effect but to really gather the full benefit of the change muni’s need to pass new ordinances supportive of the initiatives.

The Middletown Train Station is going to be a boon for the borough, just look at the added value of Elizabethtown’s new Amtrak station. To capitalize on the improved value of the land near the station the borough now has to upzone for greater density of development near the coming station.

The Cumberland Valley Rail Bridge being turned over for pedestrians, bikes, and maybe, eventually transit use, will drastically improve the East/West Shore connection for commuters in Camp Hill, New Cumberland, and Lemoyne as well as Harrisburg. To get the maximum number of residents out of their cars and onto their feet and bicycles improved protections need to made for these kinds of commuters getting from their stoop to the bridge. Upzoning near the bridge and along the potential commuter route would be an improvement worth making here too.

4. $375 Million is still going towards auto-centered construction

The widening of 581, 83, and 81 was predictable, and kudo’s to Nick Malawskey at PennLive for not billing it as necessarily an improvement.

Not only will the work cost a huge sum of money, drivers will have to sit in worse traffic for years waiting for the job to be completed, only so the the congestion will return to pre-widened levels upon completion.

If a city had increased its road capacity by 10 percent between 1980 and 1990, then the amount of driving in that city went up by 10 percent. If the amount of roads in the same city then went up by 11 percent between 1990 and 2000, the total number of miles driven also went up by 11 percent. It’s like the two figures were moving in perfect lockstep, changing at the same exact rate.
Now, correlation doesn’t mean causation. Maybe traffic engineers in U.S. cities happen to know exactly the right amount of roads to build to satisfy driving demand. But Turner and Duranton think that’s unlikely. The modern interstate network mostly follows the plan originally conceived by the federal government in 1947, and it seems incredibly coincidental that road engineers at the time could have successfully predicted driving demand more than half a century in the future.
A more likely explanation, Turner and Duranton argue, is what they call the fundamental law of road congestion: New roads will create new drivers, resulting in the intensity of traffic staying the same.

I guess you have to take the good with the bad.

This entry was posted in Harrisburg / South Central, Transportation.

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