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Road to Recovery: Streets Department Budget Gaining Ground

 

It’s no secret that the City of Philadelphia’s Streets Department has a yeoman’s job of managing 2525 miles of city streets, 320 bridges, over 20,000 intersections, 100,000 streetlights and over 400 bike lane miles.

The ability of the Streets Department to repave and restripe city streets is critical to Philadelphia building and maintaining a high quality bikeway network and to reaching Mayor Kenney’s goal of zero traffic deaths by 2030.  It dictates how many miles of bike lanes are added every year, how quickly grant-funded projects such as protected bike lanes can be installed, and how many miles of bike lane markings can be refreshed.  It also dictates how fast and nimbly it can install Vision Zero projects that make neighborhoods safer, such as adding speed cushions, slow zones, roundabouts, and traffic calming through road diets and signal timing.

We took a deeper dive into the Streets Department’s budget by comparing Philadelphia’s capacity resurface streets to Baltimore.  The findings are that Philadelphia needs not only to increase its asphalt budget, but add new staff and equipment in order to have the capacity it needs to maintain its roads, bridges, intersections, lights and bike lanes.  While Philadelphia has a way to go, Mayor Kenney’s proposed budget is moving things in the right direction.  We are encouraged that Philadelphia’s streets are finally on the road to recovery.

The combination of the 2008 recession and an unfunded mandate to rebuild accessible ramps contributed to a reduced rate of the number of miles of streets that were resurfaced between 2010-2016.  The bottom was hit in 2013-14 when roughly 30 miles were repaved in each calendar year.  The good news is that finally, the City’s capital program is steadily increasing the amount allotted for resurfacing (asphalt and thermoplastic road markings).  In 2016, 52 miles were repaved.  In 2017, the number is expected to be 70 miles.

Mayor Kenney’s FY18-23 Capital Program recommends that $174 million in new funds be invested in the reconstruction and resurfacing of City streets (as well as the creation of accessible ramps), enabling the City to reach a pace of resurfacing 131 miles of streets annually within seven years to ensure a state of good repair.  In addition, $52.5 million will be invested in other Streets Department projects over the six-year program, including the critical replacement and renovation of bridges and increased street lighting.  Included in that amount is $5 million for street re-engineering through Vision Zero.

On top of that, the FY18 budget includes new positions within the Transportation Division that will enable the creation of a badly needed new paving crew, among other critically needed positions in the Right of Way Unit, Traffic Operations and Street Lights.

Yesterday, the Streets Department budget presented to City Council and we are pleased to report many of the questions asked were specifically about resurfacing and Vision Zero.  Mayor Kenney’s proposed budget and capital program are moving things in the right direction and we urge City Council’s support.

Topics: Biking in Philly, Featured, Vision Zero

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