York County transportation wish list: Safety a top concern, retesting senior drivers ... not so much

Matt Enright
York Dispatch
Gene Smith of contractor Tutor Perini directs traffic as signal lights were being calibrated on Mount Rose Avenue at the I-83 interchange Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Completed ramps at the exit are opening. Bill Kalina photo

Transportation safety is a top concern for York County residents, but they're not too keen on being told how fast they can go. And they absolutely hate the idea of retesting senior drivers.

Those were some of the results when the county planning commission asked residents to weigh in on the GOYORK 2045 Plan, a long-range plan to implement transportation improvements. It's updated every four or five years based on changing data and priorities.

The York County Planning Commission is in the process of an update now, and the public comment period recently closed.

Will Clark, the commission's chief of transportation planning, said 1,059 people filled out the survey that had been available on the commission's website and 231 people had written comments. That included discussion on planning commission Facebook posts, at the open houses the commission held and via email.

Safety was one of the biggest priorities among those who responded, Clark said. However, there also was opposition to speed control, which goes hand in hand with safety.

"We need to see how much of a contradiction that is, and that's why we have to dive into the information a little more to see where that's coming from," he said in an interview Thursday.

Clark said people were supportive of the majority of the actions proposed in the plan. Participants could rank actions on a five-star scale, with five being the most supportive; the majority of actions had been ranked at three stars or higher. 

The absolute least popular action proposed in the plan was the concept of retesting senior drivers, which had been under the category of safety. It had the lowest average out of the actions ranked on the five-star system.

The most popular, Clark said, was the proposal to use transportation funding for health-based recreation like a walking trail.

"So even though we're talking about transportation, they're talking about 'We should be doing projects that make people healthier from a recreational side,'" he said. That's a change in past priorities, which had been to use transportation funding like the gas tax toward transportation projects. 

In comparison with past public comment periods, Clark said, this comment period reached more people. "The information was out to more people through these electronic means." 

What might have been down, Clark said, was the broadness of perspectives into the comments.

"That's a harder thing to track just because when we're sitting out there in some place, yes we're only getting people who come out to a mall but it's somewhat more diverse it seems like," he said. "When we post in different groups, we were getting a lot of the same kind of comments as far as being upset with the transportation system in general, not necessarily feedback other than consumer feedback." 

The Mount Rose Avenue/Interstate 83 interchange project came up quite a bit as a touchstone for people online, Clark said, even though it's not actually under the purview of GOYORK 2045.

Now that the public comment period is over, GOYORK 2045 will go before the York area metropolitan planning committee for approval on June 24. The York County Planning Commission will make a recommendation on July 20, after which it will be before the York County Board of Commissioners on Aug. 4.