Not only does street paving seem to take a long time, Philadelphia still isn’t paving the number of streets it needs to, according to the Streets department. In a recent Inquirer article, an explanation is provided about why paving takes so long. The story walks through the 4 step process of milling, adjusting manhole covers and resetting utilities, paving with asphalt, and finally line striping and the addition of any vertical traffic calming measures like flex posts, speed humps or curbs.

With each step, the paving season (March to November) can be delayed by weather, emergencies, or anything else that could take up the crews’ time. This process, plus a shortage of personnel and funding has resulted in, well, a sad state of affairs.

The Streets Department and Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability have reported that in order to keep up good repair, the City should be paving 131 miles of roadway per year. Not only is that not being accomplished currently, but the last time that goal was met was 2002. Part of the reason the City isn’t hitting this goal is because of a lack of personnel and difficulty in filling open positions. The City currently has 2 crews for paving (30 full-time positions), where it truly needs 3 or 4 crews. The next step is to get the City’s budget back on track with sufficient operating funding to hire a third paving crew and capital funding for paving supplies.

So what does that mean in terms of safety projects? If the City is only paving 50 miles a year that leaves a lot of roads with faded or no striping, no speed cushions, and no upgraded bike facilities. If Philadelphia wants to effectively eliminate traffic fatalities, it needs to modify its roads to be less dangerous and conducive to speeding.  The Bicycle Coalition is looking to the next administration to move the needle on this issue by supporting the creation of a Department of Transportation and investing more funding toward capital and maintenance for transportation and Vision Zero infrastructure.

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