Carson safety project making improvements to 33 blocks in S. Side
March 3, 2020
The long-awaited $16.31 million East Carson Street Safety Improvement Project has entered the preparatory work phase and is anticipated to begin construction work in early April.
Residents were able to hear the latest plans and ask questions at a meeting with PennDOT and project representatives from WR& A and Golden Triangle Construction and facilitated by the South Side Community Council (SSCC) last week.
Matt Brungo, SSCC Board Member, opened the meeting explaining the council has been meeting with PennDOT officials concerning the safety improvement project, expressing concerns and making suggestions to lessen the impact on the neighborhood.
PennDOT construction engineer John Myler began his presentation by explaining it would be a two-year project along the 2.5 miles from the Smithfield Street Bridge to 33rd Street. Work will be spread out over the two years beginning with survey control and inlet and utility markings this year, followed by signal poles next and ending with paving.
Mr. Myler anticipated PennDOT holding another, much larger, meeting in the spring to go over the details.
Dan Fritz, a design engineer with WR&A, said with a project this long there were a lot of trade-offs. In the project area, East Carson Street changes from two to three and sometimes even four lanes, 12,000-15,000 vehicles travel it daily including about seven percent truck traffic. The street also accommodates several modes of travel including vehicles, buses and bikes.
Mr. Fritz emphasized it was a safety improvement project saying it was the second highest crash location in the region. When completed, it will improve multi-modal mobility, rehabilitate the road surface and reduce congestion with improved timing.
To improve safety along the corridor, PennDOT will be installing “bump-outs,” which extend the sidewalk closer to traffic, so drivers will have a better opportunity to see pedestrians. In addition, there will be “piano key” and count-down cross walks.
Some heavily used bus stops will become “bus super stops” with riders able to board from front and middle bus doors from extended length bump-outs. Lesser used bus stops will only use one door at the smaller bump-outs. Super stops will be installed at 18th and 21st streets along East Carson.
Upgraded traffic signals will be installed from Smithfield Street to 24th Street. The traffic signals continuing up to 33rd Street are newer, but will be updated as part of the project.
A new sidewalk will be installed from Arlington Avenue to 7th Street to allow people to wait for, board and discharge from buses safely. A “rectangular rapid flashing beacon” will be installed along with a crosswalk at Terminal Way. The beacon will activate with a push-button to alert motorists to pedestrians waiting to cross the street.
Other safety improvements include installing left-turn arrows at all four points at the 10th Street intersection. Unneeded steel poles at the intersection will also be removed.
A pedestrian refuge island will be installed in the middle of East Carson at 19th Street. Pedestrians crossing the street will be able to wait on the island until traffic is clear if necessary.
Left turns will be prohibited at 19th Street from all directions. Motorists entering East Carson from 19th Street will be prohibited from cutting straight across and will only be permitted to make a right turn. Those wanting to cross Carson or turn left will have to go to 18th or 20th streets where there are traffic signals.
At the 22nd and 23rd street intersections medians will be installed to prevent left turns from all directions. Traffic entering East Carson at those intersections will be required to turn right only. There will be no cross walk on Carson at 22nd Street.
Motorist wanting to turn left or cross over 22nd or 23rd streets will have to go at least one block and turn on Carson to 21st or 23rd streets.
Significant changes are coming around the Birmingham Bridge. Changes include extending the sidewalk from East Carson to the existing sidewalk on the bridge. Currently, pedestrians crossing the bridge have to use a stairway near 22nd and Wharton streets.
PennDOT will be reducing the 23rd Street curb radius onto the bridge, making it a right turn with a green arrow instead of a merge point.
Right turns coming off the Birmingham Bridge will be permitted only with a green arrow. Two lanes will be maintained on East Carson, but there will be no left turns at 22nd and traffic in the right lane will have to turn right.
Getting onto the bridge from the town side, traffic will be queued in the left turn lane with an extended green arrow. Traffic will only be permitted to turn left while they have the green arrow.
Further up, another median will be installed at the Hot Metal Street intersection, again only permitting traffic to turn left onto Hot Metal with a green arrow. Right turns coming from the street will also have a green arrow.
A bigger change is coming to where Sarah Street merges onto East Carson, a high crash location. Instead of the current configuration where traffic merges with a yield sign, the street will be reconfigured to make it a signalized intersection with a right turn lane and arrow on Sarah Street.
Project-wide changes affecting all of East Carson include the opportunity to turn right on red and installation of piano key crosswalks. Currently, some intersections permit turning right on red during specific times during the day. All right turns on red will be prohibited at all intersections along East Carson.
Piano key crosswalks increase visibility and wear better since the “keys” are in the same direction as the flow of traffic.
One of the trade-offs mentioned by the engineers was the loss of about 30 parking spaces, mostly toward Station Square.
When work begins, planned for early April, traffic may be impacted during daylight off-peak hours, overnight and with weekend lane restrictions.
PennDOT officials plan to continue to coordinate with affected businesses along the project route and will be setting up a link on the PennDOT website with further information.