Roundabouts, wheels and pie charts: Getting a sense of public opinion

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton The results of a recent poll reflect a possible tie regarding proposed changes – including a roundabout – at the intersection of Market St. and Pennsylvania Ave. Is this really public opinion?

The opinions of the public can be a challenging thing to assess.

But if the responses of a recent Times Observer poll are any indication, team roundabout and team traffic signal might be neck-and-neck.

As of Sunday evening, 310 responses had been received to the question: “Which intersection proposal do you support?”

“New signal light, modification of existing intersection” received 153 votes, and was in a tie with, “Roundabout, safer and nicer looking,” which also had 153 votes. “Other” had received 4 votes, making those undecided few the potential tie-breakers.

City Manager Nancy Freenock said that they are looking for those opinions and for that feedback from the community.

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton The results of a recent poll reflect a possible tie regarding proposed changes – including a roundabout – at the intersection of Market St. and Pennsylvania Ave. Is this really public opinion?

“I believe that Council needs to know what its constituents think,” she said. “Honestly, I thought that the meeting on Wednesday night would draw a larger audience. I was disappointed that more people did not attend to offer their thoughts and opinions. One point that was clearly made was that pedestrian safety must be given more consideration; the PennDOT representatives heard that message and are now reconsidering their plans in light of the concerns raised on Wednesday.”

Freenock said that the results of the Times Observer poll “will be presented to Council together with information regarding costs and how roundabouts fare in other locales. This information will be presented to Council during a public meeting and it is hoped that those unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting will be able to attend the meeting that the Mayor will call to discuss this issue.”

She said that the city initially received a number of calls on the options when those options were first revealed.

PennDOT tried to take an informal poll of the people in attendance on Wednesday but the poll was taken after several of the people in attendance had already left.

“I believe that public opinion is evenly split,” Freenock said. “At the meeting the other night, we heard from several people that appear to be against the roundabout; however, there were others that did not speak and several left the meeting before the ‘unofficial’ poll was taken. One gentlemen said to me that if a roundabout would really improve safety, then he was all for it. Unfortunately, he did not speak publicly and left prior to the count.”

“From what we can glean, younger drivers seem to be in favor of the roundabout while older drivers prefer a signalized intersection.”

While it is not yet clear when the decision will be before city council for consideration, city administration will include their recommendation.

“I can tell you that our opinions change almost daily,” Freenock said. “That is why public input and information gathering is so important. We want to be sure that Council and the public have all of the available facts prior to any decision being made.”

A PennDOT statement from Friday announced that the presentation made on Wednesday can be viewed online.

“The presentation is available by going to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation website, www.penndot.gov/district1, and clicking on the links listed under the District Links heading,” PennDOT spokesperson Jillian Harry said. “Posts include a copy of the presentation given during the August 22 public meeting. There is also a link to the comment form, which can be completed and returned to Christine Boyer-Krantz, PennDOT Project Manager, at chboyer@pa.gov.”

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