Like any major city, Philadelphia has a mix of street sizes, ranging from narrow alleyways to major arteries to federal highways. Today, we are going to focus on one particular arterial road, Spring Garden Street. This four-lane street suffers from a familiar malady that we’ve seen with similar streets, like Washington Avenue or even Broad Street. Sure, its width allows it to accommodate more traffic than narrower roads and it usually offers a quick route across town in a car or on a bike. But the pedestrian experience is generally cruddy, especially on odd numbered blocks, where the already small median is chewed up on both sides by turning lanes. West of Broad, the even numbered blocks are a bit better, offering some green space and a smattering of mature trees to make crossing the street a bit of a nicer experience. But on the whole, it’s still pretty bad from one side of town to the other.
Fortunately, the City has figured out that Spring Garden Street could be something better than it is. And so, the Streets Department and the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS) have launched a project that seeks to improve Spring Garden Street. They’re calling it the Spring Garden Street Improvement Project, naturally. The goal is to “create a safer, sustainable, and stronger multi-modal link connecting the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.” It will build on the recommendations of the Spring Garden Greenway plan, which we covered way back in 2012.
If fully implemented, the Spring Garden Street Improvement Project would result in many changes to the corridor. Those include general improvements to the streetscape, upgrades to traffic signals, and increasing stormwater management elements. Also, we expect alterations for the bike lanes and medians and a re-striping of the street to reflect all of these changes. This being a government initiative, there will of course be opportunity for public involvement. If not for COVID, there would surely be several meetings and maybe a charrette or two, so that stakeholders could offer suggestions and remain apprised of the evolution of the plans for the corridor. But COVID is still a thing, so these efforts will take place entirely online.
Between now and the end of the year, you can make your voice heard on how you’d like to see Spring Garden Street change. You could sign up for the virtual coffee hour and speak directly with members of the project team. That’s taking place on December 10th at 5pm and you can sign up here. Alternately, you could share your personal experience with Spring Garden Street by indicating on a map locations you find problematic or well functioning. Another option is to choose from a few different possibilities for bike lane locations.
Crossing a four-lane road with two parking lanes and a median will never be as pleasant as crossing a one-lane street, but there are definitely several steps that the City can take to improve the experience on Spring Garden, and we’re glad they’re making the effort. It will likely be several months before we know the final form Spring Garden will take and perhaps a couple years before the changes are implemented. Still, every step of the process moves us closer to a more attractive, and more importantly, a safer version of Spring Garden Street.