Carlisle road diet project wins second award

Since its planning stages, Carlisle’s road diet has attracted a
lot of attention – positive and negative attention.

Now that it’s done, the project is also winning awards.

The Borough of Carlisle tonight will receive an award from the
Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania for the project, which was
already honored in October with a project of the year award by the
Mid-Atlantic Section of the Institute of Transportation
Engineers.

The annual Clean Air Board Bold Innovators for the Environment
(CABBIE) award will be presented to the borough at 7 p.m. on the
second floor of Bosler Library, 158 W. High St.

Professor Thomas Daniels, a planning expert with the University
of Pennsylvania, will speak, and light refreshments will be
served.

Cleaner air

The Clean Air Board, a faith-based citizens’ initiative
dedicated to achieving clean air to protect our health and quality
of life, has awarded the CABBIE since 2007.

“We take a look at who in the community is really doing
something creative to try and improve our local air quality,” said
Justina Wasicek, secretary of the Clean Air Board.

Board members are asked to provide nominations, from which a
winner is eventually chosen.

“This year we … are awarding it to the Borough of Carlisle
because of the work that they put into building and designing the
Carlisle road diet,” said Thomas Au, president of the Clean Air
Board. “With smoother traffic flow and a lessening of trucks and
cars, it reduces the concentration of pollutants in downtown
Carlisle.”

The Clean Air Board fights for cleaner air in part to protect
the quality of life in central Pennsylvania, which is improved in
other ways by the road diet, Au added.

“Members of the community felt reducing traffic congestion in
town was very important,” he said. “There are fewer traffic jams
and I think it makes … (it) easier to cross the street
safely.”

While no hard data for comparison was collected on air pollution
in downtown Carlisle prior to the road diet, Au asserts there will
be a noticeable change.

“I think you will find the air quality in or around downtown
will have improved,” he said. “As I drive around and walk around
downtown Carlisle, I am very pleased with the results.”

Bold innovators

Borough Manager Steve Hietsch and Dewberry Senior Traffic
Engineer Chad Decker are both pleased with the most recent award
recognizing the road diet.

“We’re pleased,” Hietsch said. “The Clean Air Board has been a
supporter of the road diet project from the very beginning.”

“We commend the borough for sticking with the plan,” Decker
said. “I think it’s a very bold and forward-thinking plan, so the
borough should certainly be honored for that.”

“We hope there are multiple opportunities to reflect back and
recognize what was accomplished,” Hietsch said. “I know the
project’s up for a number of awards.”

Road diet

The road diet plan was on the drawing board for more than two
years and became a reality last fall. Work began April 4 to
implement the lane changes.

Among the changes was a new traffic light configuration that
also includes emergency vehicle pre-emption detection systems. The
wireless receiver – a small black cylinder that looks like a camera
perched on the traffic light arm in between the two lights
themselves – is sent a signal from a transmitter on the dashboard
of emergency services vehicle that either changes the light from
red to green or holds it steady at green to allow emergency
vehicles to get through quickly.

Static signage – think white, reflective signs – is now in place
to direct tractor-trailers from Interstate 81, PA 34 and 74, and
U.S. 11 to avoid the downtown if they are trying to access the
Pennsylvania Turnpike, I-81 or the warehouse district.

Meanwhile, trucks that deliver goods to downtown businesses have
been encouraged to use the side streets and alleys whenever
possible or to park in the center turning-only lane and deliver
from there.

Once the traffic lights were all installed, connected and
transmitting, a camera on one end of the light pole arm records a
photo of the traffic, transmits it to a computer, which then
translates it into data and transmits it back to the traffic
lights, controlling how long they are green.

The lights also communicate wirelessly with each other to keep
the flow of traffic on main roads – High and Hanover streets -
moving briskly.

Through the use of video detection, the “smart signal”
technology the borough installed gathers data on traffic patterns
and adjusts signal timing intervals accordingly. Once all the
hardware was installed, it took about a month for everything to be
activated, because each signal had to be brought online
individually and taken through a series of tests.

There are 23 signals that needed to go through this transition
process. Once the system was activated, it began to gather traffic
data and to “learn,” but it won’t reach peak efficiency until it
has gathered three months’ worth of data, which should be happening
right about now.

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