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Philly's Washington Ave. residents upset by long-awaited safety upgrade delay

Pedestrians crossing a crosswalk in advance of a car

In a move that has community advocates worried, Philadelphia officials are delaying long-awaited Washington Avenue renovations to improve safety by at least one year.

Washington Avenue is infamous for its many serious car accidents. From 2012 through 2018, 254 traffic accidents were reported on the avenue, including four fatalities.

The situation is so bad that Washington Avenue is on Philadelphia's "high injury road network." Streets on this list make up just 12% of all city roadways but are involved in 80% of all city car accidents. This includes those involving trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Safety delayed

Philadelphia has been working on safety upgrades for years. The project has gone through several designs, years of planning, and collecting community input. Work was slated to begin this construction season. Now, it looks like work will begin next spring or summer.

The Washington Avenue project is not "shovel ready," city officials say. There are some things that still need to be done before renovations can begin. Community advocates are skeptical of the reasoning noting that after six years, Philadelphia should be ready to start work on Washington Avenue.

While Washington Avenue renovations have been delayed, the city greenlit repaving projects on Martin Luther King Drive, Spruce Street through University City and West Philly, and Main Street in Manayunk.

City officials say that they plan to contract out the Washington Avenue work in the fall, and paving should begin in the 2022 construction season. Many construction timelines and infrastructure upgrade schedules were changed due to a backlog created by a year of COVID-19 restrictions, city officials note.

Neighborhood concern

Meanwhile, safety advocates say the Washington Avenue project had six years, more than enough time, to be shovel ready in 2021. The project has undergone community surveys, public hearings, multiple proposals, and collected feedback from more than 5,600 area residents and business owners. Everything that needs to be considered about Washington Avenue has been, they say.

Neighbor's fear that the delay is a sign the city is losing interest and may continue to prioritize other projects over Washington Avenue.

City officials say they are not giving up on Washington Avenue and their commitment to making safety upgrades is strong.

Philadelphia's high-injury network

Serious injury-causing and fatal car accidents are a problem in Philadelphia.

Due to the city's age, street design is inconsistent and still based on 300-year-old Colonial routes in some places. Elfreth's Alley, for example, is the oldest continuously inhabited residential street in the U.S. Chipped or cratered pavement is common throughout Philadelphia.

The city established the "high-injury network" around 2016. Other Philadelphia streets in the network alongside Washington Avenue include:

  • 63rd Street
  • Aramingo Avenue
  • Broad Street
  • Bustleton Avenue
  • Castor Avenue
  • Chestnut Street
  • Christopher Columbus Boulevard
  • City Avenue
  • Girard Avenue
  • Hunting Park Avenue
  • Island Avenue
  • Kensington Avenue
  • Lancaster Avenue
  • Market Street
  • Passyunk Avenue
  • Penrose Avenue
  • Roosevelt Boulevard

Planned Washington Avenue improvements

The Washington Avenue renovation plan was chosen from three designs presented to the city. Currently, Washington Ave. has five lanes of traffic with two parking lanes and two bike lanes.

The safety project affects Washington Avenue from 4th Street to Grays Ferry Avenue. The stretch of 15th to 13th Street will not change due to high traffic around Broad Street, the city says.

Under the new plan, Washington will have a three-lane design with two parking lanes and two parking-protected bicycle lanes.

P:roponents say the benefits of the plan include:

  • Reducing fatal accidents by separating bicyclists from cars
  • Improving pedestrian safety by reducing the number of lanes a walker has to cross
  • Wider sidewalks in some areas where they are now too narrow
  • Creation of "floating" bus islands so riders can safely get on and off public transportation
  • Better traffic flow due to traffic signal timing updates
  • New loading spaces to alleviate double-parking
  • New parking time limits aim to increase the availability of short-term parking

The changes will come with a few drawbacks, Philadelphia officials say. It will likely take longer to travel down Washington Avenue during rush hour. A 5% to 10% increase in traffic may occur on surrounding streets as people try to avoid the longer route.

Philadelphia accident victims have legal rights

Car accidents happen in Philadelphia for a variety of reasons, but far too many of them are the result of negligence. The driver who hit you may have been speeding, distracted by their cellphone, texting, fatigued, or operating under the influence of alcohol. No matter how your car accident occurred, you deserve to be compensated for your damages (accident-related expenses) if someone else caused your crash. But the process of recovering compensation can be complex because insurance companies are financially motivated to pay you as little money as possible.

The Hanamirian Firm, P.C., helps crash victims get the money they need to recover after a bad accident. Our team works in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. We know how the local justice system works and how to fight for the best possible results.

We offer free case evaluations to accident victims. Call, email, or chat online with a member of our legal team to schedule a legal review of your case. Our firm can help you understand how the law applies to your accident, the true value of your claim, and clearly explain your legal options. We also represent our clients on contingency, which means our fee is a percentage of any settlement or verdict we obtain on your behalf. In other words, our fee is covered by the insurance companies — not you. If we don't win, you pay nothing. It's that easy.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Our office is located in Philadelphia office on Walnut Street.

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