[Full disclosure: I’m a member of St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Harrisburg, PA. We have two boys that we intend to send to Bishop McDevitt High School in the future. Our residence’s property borders Spring Creek Road on the south side, opposite of and in view of the proposed site of the new McD HS.]

This week saw the release of a statement by Bishop Kevin Rhoades regarding the selection of a location for the building of a new facility for Bishop McDevitt High School (McD) in Lower Paxton Township. My first reaction was surprise; the proposed location is in some of the green fields that are in my backyard’s view, at least in the winter months. Then I was pleased that the school would potentially be in a very convenient location for my sons, the oldest of whom should be going into ninth grade in 2014. And then I thought about the infrastructure that would be required to support the school’s traffic. Now I’m concerned.

The proposed location (see the Conceptual Land Use Sketch) is along the north side of Spring Creek Road between Harvest Drive and Page Road. Tall trees border the road, yielding to open fields further back. I don’t think the fields (at least the ones I can see) have been farmed in recent years. The only activity I’m aware over there is the occasional noisy off-road antics of unknown people using dirt bikes and 4x4s. There is a residence at the northwest corner of the Spring Creek/Page intersection, and it looks like the proposed site borders their west side. The west border of the proposed location appears to be just north of our residence.

Using nearby Central Dauphin East High School for comparison, the roads that service the proposed location are nowhere near ready to support a new McD. Page Road (called N 61st Street south of the Spring Creek intersection) is a two-lane road with very little berm. So is Spring Creek, a road that’s been maintained very little by Lower Paxton Township in the seven years I’ve lived near it. The S-curve on Spring Creek that’s shown on the proposed location’s map looks minor on paper, but because of elevation changes and the tight road it has to be navigated carefully. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic is not given its own space on either road, and there are no sidewalks. The Location Map on the Diocese’s page shows a route from I-83 to the proposed location that uses Union Deposit Road, Newside Road, and Page Road to get to Spring Creek, but once McD families figured out that Dowhower Road connects Union Deposit and Spring Creek I expect it would be more heavily used.

I propose the following improvements if the new McD plan goes forward:

  • Widen (and repave as necessary) Spring Creek Road from East Park Drive to Page Road and Page Road/N 61st Street from Newside Road to Derry Street to increase safety and promote biking/walking on the roads.
  • Rebuild the bridge that takes Spring Creek Road over Spring Creek in a way that reduces the sharpness of the existing S-curve and accomodates the proposed widening of the road.
  • Enforce the 25mph speed limit on Spring Creek Road from Dowhower Road to Page Road. That would increase safety and cut down on traffic noise.