Traveling on Washington Avenue, be it on foot, by bicycle, by car, or by forklift, can often be a dicey proposition. The width of the street, its collection of large shopping centers and building supply stores, and the fact that most of the paint on the street has faded combine to make traversing this major artery a major headache for everybody. And the data supports the anecdotal evidence. Between 2010 and 2012, there were an average of six crashes per week along Washington Avenue, with a pedestrian or bicyclist being injured every three weeks. The map below shows the most dangerous intersections.
In an effort to improve safety along Washington Avenue and improve the general flow of traffic, the Philadelphia Planning Commission, Kittelson & Associates, and Boles, Smyth Associates embarked upon a study to determine the street’s biggest problems and to learn what neighbors would like done to resolve them. Last night, representatives from the PCPC presented their findings to a group of assembled community members at Grace & Peace Community Church at 17th & Washington. This meeting came as a sequel of sorts to a meeting that was held last fall to collect public input on Washington Avenue. The findings presented last night are interesting, if perhaps a little unsurprising.
Parking, as you can imagine, continues to play a large role in these conversations. With the growth of neighborhoods south of Washington on both sides of Broad Street, there’s been considerable pressure on parking on Washington Avenue in recent years. One of the challenges that comes with changing the parking scheme in any way is that the building supply companies on Washington Avenue have significant loading needs, sometimes from early morning until after dark. Still, there’s a sense that with improved signage, increased time restrictions, and repainting, Washington Avenue could relieve at least some of the residential parking pressure from surrounding neighborhoods.
Though the repainting scheme has not yet been finalized, the preliminary plan presented last night would radically change the traffic flow on Washington Avenue. Parts of the street will be reduced down to one lane, with higher-traffic segments maintaining three or even four lanes. The disappearing lanes will be replaced by back-in angle parking on many blocks, which will increase the number of available parking spots on the street. The lights will also be retimed to reduce the speed of traffic and increase safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. It’s challenging in this space to detail the plans on a block-by-block basis, but suffice to say that change will be coming to almost every block on Washington Avenue. Here’s just one example of an intersection under the proposed repainting plan.
People who live nearby, do you like this? Hate it? Or are you indifferent? Will additional legal parking spots and fewer illegal spots (like in the middle of Washington Avenue) make much or a difference, or is this a lot of work that won’t change things much? Will traffic increase dramatically on Washington Avenue with the reduction in the number of lanes? Or won’t it matter much?
Look for the final design to be approved next month and for repainting to take place over the summer.