After a 10 year debate, in the end, safety was compromised when it comes to how Washington Avenue will be reconfigured in when it is repaved in Spring 2022.

Despite being two engagement processes that involved thousands of survey takers, despite dozens of community and business meetings, despite numerous traffic studies and crash analyses, despite the safest option being the top choice of community members and despite the City’s Office of Transportation and Infrastructure and Sustainability declaring the safest option as the final design decision in September 2020, yesterday, in a stunning reversal, the City changed its mind and removed that option from consideration at a community meeting.

During the 2020 community engagement process, three options were evaluated: 4 travel lanes, 3 lanes and a mixture of the two. In all options, a protected bike lane was planned in each direction between 25th and 16th streets west of Broad, and 12th and front east of Broad.

But, the point of this project is to maximize protection for all users, especially those who are vulnerable, such as pedestrians and bicyclists.  As amended by the Kenney Administration, it doesn’t reach its full potential to protect pedestrians.

When the community engagement process was reopened in fall 2021, the three options were considered along with a no-change option.

Yesterday, the “no change” option was declared as the least safe and is not viable.  But incredibly, the 3 lane option was also dismissed because although it was “the most safe, [involved] big change and [the most] walk, bike and transit-oriented,” it 1) it required the most enforcement for unloading and loading, 2) businesses would need to make major changes and 3) drivers would be expected to drive slower at rush hour and experience a few seconds delay at each block.”  The materials presented at yesterday’s meeting are here.

The biggest losers here are pedestrians, especially children and the elderly, who because of this decision, will have to walk across four lanes of traffic instead of three. In particular, the Stanton elementary cachement has children and families who live south of Washington Avenue lose out as they must cross Washington Avenue to walk to the school at 17th and Christian.

The City’s own analysis of crash trends found that people walking and riding bicycles ‘are over-represented in crashes on Washington Avenue compare to the city as whole” and recommended that “improvements on Washington Avenue should prioritize strategies specifically targeted towards improving conditions for these vulnerable users.”

The current options being considered don’t do as good a job as they could to protect pedestrians.

This is a blow for Philadelphia’s Vision Zero efforts.  Trust has been lost.  In the end, what was supposed to be about community engagement turned into a negotiated settlement between oTIS and Councilmembers Johnson and Squilla who hold the power introduce legislation to alter the outdated parking and loading regulations on the Avenue to allow any configuration other than retaining the existing layout.

As of now, what’s left on the table is a four lane option or a “mixed” option (combination of three and four lanes).  oTIS told those at yesterday’s community meeting that it will be deciding on a final design in the coming weeks and present the final design (again) at a planned open community meeting on March 1st, 6pm, location TBD.

On Monday, we’ll post an action about this.



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