South Philadelphia residents and traffic-safety advocates pushed for years to get chaotic and harmful Washington Avenue on town’s radar for a redesign that will defend drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists utilizing it.
Lastly, it labored.
After greater than 5,600 residents weighed in final yr on a number of proposed choices, metropolis transportation officers selected a plan to shrink the thoroughfare from five to three driving lanes, with parking lanes on either side and bicycle lanes protected by the parked autos.
Work was scheduled to start this month, coinciding with Washington Avenue’s first repaving since 2003, however now town says that’s going to be delayed for a minimum of a yr. Neighbors who’ve campaigned for a safer avenue surprise what’s occurring.
“We proceed to punt,” mentioned Dena Driscoll, a mom and member of the urbanist advocacy group fifth Sq., who recollects attending conferences and discussions for six years about modifications to Washington Avenue. “Yearly we don’t repair it’s one other failure. Someone goes to get killed.”
Between 2012 and 2018, Washington Avenue noticed 254 reportable crashes and 4 fatalities, together with two individuals who had been killed whereas strolling. It’s on the high-injury street community within the metropolis, the 12% of streets the place 80% of crashes with deaths or critical accidents occur.
The challenge delay is because of the want for “evaluate, coordination and contracting” of numerous building and restore initiatives underway on the identical time amid a backlog of labor from final yr’s COVID-19 shutdown, Mike Carroll, town’s deputy managing director for transportation, mentioned in a press release.
Repaving initiatives on Martin Luther King Drive, Spruce Avenue by means of College Metropolis and West Philly, and Major Avenue in Manayunk had been deemed extra “shovel prepared” than Washington Avenue’s redo and got precedence for this building season, Carroll mentioned.
“We anticipate the package deal that features Washington Avenue to be contracted this fall and … for paving to happen throughout 2022,” he mentioned within the assertion.
Within the meantime, “the [Kenney] administration has continued our engagement with group stakeholders and elected officers to seize extra neighbor suggestions as we refine our site visitors security ideas,” Carroll mentioned.
Some advocates are involved that would imply additional delays and even modifications to make the plan much less formidable. Opponents who would possibly dislike, say, a lack of parking areas or often-controversial bike lanes have further time to weigh in, and members of Metropolis Council might intervene. It’s unclear if elements of the plan nonetheless want Council authorization.
There’s no indication but that town has moved off its dedication to placing Washington Avenue on a “road diet,” however activists say they’ve seen this film earlier than.
“I don’t know why town isn’t shifting,” mentioned Randy LoBasso, coverage director with the Bicycle Coalition of Higher Philadelphia, among the many teams pushing for a rework of the hall. “It’s been surveyed to dying. 1000’s of individuals stuffed out surveys supporting this plan; it wasn’t even shut. Town needs to be shifting forward with it.”
Beneath the plan, supported by more than 70% of respondents, motor vehicles would travel along one lane in each direction, there would be a center turning lane and area for “floating” bus islands the place SEPTA passengers might board and disembark safely.
As it’s now, some individuals deal with Washington Avenue like a private driveway, vehicles race alongside the crosstown route, and cyclists navigate uneven asphalt amid dashing vehicles the place present bike-lane markings are pale. After which there are the double parking and impromptu truck loading zones.
“Everybody agrees Washington Avenue isn’t protected and also you don’t really feel good on it, however there is also a concern of change,” Driscoll mentioned. Bike lanes, she famous, are virtually all the time controversial and constructed after bitter fights. To some, they’re harbingers of gentrification.
In the meantime, “individuals nonetheless wish to use the road as a freeway,” Driscoll mentioned.