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{EAST HANOVER TOWNSHIP} — The City of Harrisburg’s two-way North Second Street project was honored as an engineering Project of the Year at a ceremony Thursday night.

The honor is from the American Society of Highway Engineers Harrisburg chapter. The City of Harrisburg and its engineering partners with Wallace, Montgomery & Associates were given the “2024 Project of the Year – Under $20 Million.”

Work on the project began with designs in 2017. Work to transform the road started at the beginning of the spring 2022 construction season. It was completed by October 2022. Engineers took a two-mile stretch of Second Street, from Forster to Division Streets, away from a three-lane speedway and into a two-lane neighborhood-friendly road.

“The most challenging parts about this project were showing that taking Second Street two-ways would not only work, but would improve traffic flow due to the redistribution of traffic,” said Wayne Martin, Project Manager for Wallace Montgomery and former City of Harrisburg Engineer. “We also wanted to minimize the impact to residents in respect to land acquisition and maintaining existing parking. It would have been easy to design a project that disregarded these important considerations. Instead, engineers were challenged to come up with innovative design solutions. We put in mini roundabouts to meet not only the project goals, but the public’s input and priorities.”

The entire project cost the City of Harrisburg $5,307,546.49.

A north-sound Second Street ended up forcing traffic to slow down considerably thanks to the installation of three roundabouts. Wallace Montgomery eliminated traffic lights at the intersections of Verbeke, Reily, and Kelker, and instead placed roundabouts with raised crosswalks acting as speedbumps.

Other traffic calming elements, including median islands, speed cushions, and new street lighting lining the sidewalks, have made the new Second Street a favorite among residents.

Roundabouts = Safety

According to the September 2023 study authored by PennDOT, roundabouts helped improve road safety in the following ways:

  • A reduction of crashes involving serious injuries by 24 percent;
  • A reduction of crashes involving suspected non-serious injuries by 51 percent; and
  • The total number of crashes dropped three percent.

Second Street was last a two-way road in the 1950s, when population peaked around 90,000 people. To manage traffic congestion, North Second Street became three northbound travel lanes. This configuration resulted in higher speeds. By 1956, residents began complaining about the “Second Street Speedway”, while the City’s population steadily declined to approximately 50,000.

Speed studies of the corridor showed that 93% of drivers were exceeding the posted speed limit of 25 mph, with 85% exceeding 38 mph. The City hired Wallace Montgomery to develop innovative designs that would calm traffic, convert the roadway back to two-way operations, and mitigate any degradation of capacity to the roadway network.