The results of a recent statewide transportation survey are in, and a Lebanon County planning official says he is pleased with the input received from local residents.
“Absolutely,” Jon Fitzkee, assistant director and senior transportation planner for the Lebanon County Planning Department, told LebTown. “Any time that we can get more feedback from the public on their areas of concern is useful.
“We can learn from the community,” he added. “What are their burning concerns?”
The State Transportation Commission (STC) allowed a 60-day period for public comment, from March 1 through April 30, to assist in preparing its 2025 12-Year Program (TYP), which maps out areas for roadway improvements, maintenance and other transportation concerns. Participants could register their comments through a transportation survey or by attending a virtual public forum, held in mid-April.
“All public feedback received was reviewed and compiled to convey current transportation priorities and trends statewide and regionally for the benefit of the Metropolitan and Rural Planning Organizations (MPOs and RPOs) across the commonwealth,” the report explains.
“Over the years, the STC has done a better job of making it more accessible to people,” Fitzkee said. “In years past, people had to go to a meeting to air their concerns.”
Local feedback focused largely on roadway issues, “primarily things that involved the operation and safety of our network,” Fitzkee said. “They recommended some bike and pedestrian improvements. … One comment I’d categorize as a freight issue. Obviously with all of the warehouses going in, there are some concerns with that traffic utilizing our roadways.”
The survey helps planners know what issues concern residents most, even if the issues were already on their radar.
“We may have heard the same things, but as the county grows and develops you have new people moving in who have their own expectations what they want to see,” he said. “These kinds of things help us know if we are still on target.”
A look at the results
More than 10,000 people statewide participated in the survey, including 77 from the Lebanon County region, according to the 2025 12-Year Program Update: Regional Transportation Survey Summary, issued in late June by the STC. The report shows about an even split between male and female respondents, with more than half falling between the ages of 34-44 or 65-74.
Statewide, survey participants mapped about 4,250 transportation concerns, 61 of which are located within the county region, according to the report.
That number included 52 roadway concerns, one bridge issue, four biking/walking issues, two transit concerns and two freight issues. Three of those concerns are already being addressed, the report notes.
Comparatively, a similar survey in 2021 received input from only 50 Lebanon County participants and referenced just 21 areas of concern.
This year, local concerns dealt primarily with road pavement (repairing, restoring, reconstructing, and maintaining state and local roadways) and conditions of the interstate highways. Other top concerns mentioned in Lebanon County returns included bridge maintenance, traffic flow, pedestrian access, the movement of freight by road, rail, air and water, commuter rail service, public transportation, bicycle routes and airline options.
According to a detailed report on participant comments, their concerns ranged from the broad (“Entire Interstate 81 corridor from Maryland line to I78 split needs additional travel lane,” “501 needs wider areas for Amish and traffic flow”) to the small and specific (“The intersection is at the bottom of a steep hill on the north bound side of N 8th Ave. It has a blind corner and you cant see traffic speeding down E Maple St because of a curve in the road. There are many accidents and now more development,” “Multiple potholes from 4 way stop to the bridge of Little Conewago Creek”).
Some participants provided ample detail in their comments (“Heading west on Horseshoe Pike and attempting to make a left onto Mount Pleasant Rd can be terrifying. Cars approaching from behind you going 55 mph and you are stuck sitting there waiting a chance to turn with heavy traffic coming out of Campbelltown”) while others were a bit more terse (“Hole,” with no further information, referencing the intersection of Cherry Street and Route 117).
“Having looked at the list, there are some items that we have already identified,” Fitzkee said. “Some other items we might not have had on our radar, especially with some of the development that’s going on around the county.
“A lot of them were things that I’ve heard in conversations with our municipal counterparts. Some are more easily addressed than others,” he added. “Sometimes the issue is a little more complex than a simple improvement project to fix it. It might have bigger implications.”
And some issues, he noted, are more easily addressed by focusing on driver behavior and enforcement, rather than physical improvement projects.
“We are trying to maintain the system that we have while at the same time trying to focus on making improvements,” Fitzkee said. “We try to make our network operate as efficiently as we can, while realizing that we can’t always just build our way out of a problem.”
A starting point for planning
The survey provides a starting point for state and local planners to begin the process of allocating resources, Fitzkee said.
The TYP is revised and updated every two years, he explained, while the long-range (25-year) plan is updated every four. Survey results can point out issues that planners might not have identified previously, he said, as well as underscore how important previously identified issues are in the participants’ view.
“Anything that we don’t presently have identified in the plan, we’ll try to figure out if we have resources that are eligible for that kind of improvement,” he said. “A lot of this is trying to figure out what are the priorities. Maybe there are concerns that we don’t have a handle on and we need to do a study.”
Planners also must direct some issues to the proper authorities — a request for a sidewalk extension, for instance, would be handled by local government, while highway concerns would be addressed by PennDOT — and determine the best solution for issues, such as building a roundabout or installing new traffic signals to fix a dangerous intersection.
“We certainly don’t want to be doing things that nobody has as a priority,” Fitzkee said. “Of course, our first issue is always safety.”
New ideas, if feasible, can be incorporated into existing improvement projects, he added.
“It can seem to move at a glacial pace, depending what type of project we’re talking about,” he said. “And, certainly with the finite amount of dollars we have, we want to be sure they go to the projects that will have the greatest impact.”
The MPO gets about $12 million to $14 million annually to spend on projects, he said, and “”it doesn’t really go that far.”
Planners have to keep the bigger picture in mind, he explained — is a project something for long-range planning, or is it something that can be done relatively soon?
“With a lot of the major projects we’ve had in the past, like the 9th and 10th street bridges and the Schaefferstown project, there are other sources of funding available — if we have a game plan,” Fitzkee noted. “We have the ability to better negotiate … to take advantage of them.
“People have a lot of ideas, they have a sense of what improvements are needed. But are we talking about a $100,000 project, a $1 million project, a $10 million project? That can really determine what we can do.”
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