The Philadelphia Streets Department (PSD) provided a second public update on its Island Avenue Improvement Project to improve traffic flow and safety for drivers and pedestrians along the Island Avenue corridor from Elmwood to Suffolk. The briefing took place in the community room at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at 8601 Lindbergh Blvd. on the evening of December 3.
At the meeting, PSD staff explained the project’s aims using large graphic charts and a table layout of the planned changes.
It’s hard to imagine a more hazardous stretch of roadway. According to data released by PSD, in the past 5 years, there have been 158 reportable crashes along there including 3 involving fatalities and 3 more where severe injuries were incurred. In total, 178 people were injured and 9 crashes involved pedestrians.
In the view of many, the Intersection at Island and Lindbergh Blvd. is particularly dangerous. Despite the installation of cameras at the crossing, drivers routinely speed up to “beat the lights” where the 10 lanes of Island converge with the 7 lanes of Lindbergh.
Intensifying the problem is the fact that Island Avenue provides convenient access to both the airport and I-95 for trucks and motorists all day long. And, Lindbergh is the route that people usually take to go to Penrose Plaza and the Eastwick housing complex. The result is frequent, frustrating delays at the various intersections and potential injury to trolley passengers and other pedestrians going to and from the three shopping areas at that corner.
According to Darin L. Gatti, Chief Engineer at PSD, these are some of the factors that have made have made Island Avenue a major focus of attention under the “Vision Zero” road traffic and safety program for the city announced by Mayor James Kenney back in 2018. The project will be executed in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration. PENNDOT, and SEPTA.
The primary objectives for the Island improvements are to reduce congestion by upgrading traffic signals, simplifying intersections and the roadways, reducing the distance that pedestrians have to walk, and upgrading the pavement markings and street lighting. The project design is slated to be completed this coming February, with construction beginning in the fall of this year, and completion by May 2022.
Said Margaret Cobb, a founding member of the Eastwick Lower Darby Creek Superfund Site Community Advisory Group, “ I am pleased with the significant improvements planned for Island Avenue. I believe it will cut down on traffic accidents and improve the quality of life with the addition of the bike path.”
The focus of attention by visitors was the layout plan table display. Evident from the chart was the fact that the number of lanes on Island Avenue would be reduced. This would be more than compensated for by the use of new remotely controlled traffic lights.
Several visitors did mention that there will be too few SEPTA trolley stops along the route, a significant drawback for elderly and infirm residents in Eastwick. They indicated that this problem was voiced at the two previous PSD briefings on the project but no changes were made.
While the numbers of residents and other stakeholders in attendance were down compared with the May 2019 public meeting, “Approximately 2300 paper flyers were distributed by stakeholder groups – we know that Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition personally hand-delivered more than 500 flyers,” advised Joanna Reagle, a senior project manager at KMJ Consulting. “Both PSD and the City Planning Commission also announced the gathering on their social media platforms.”
For more information on the PSD Island Avenue Improvement Project, visit https://www.philadelphiastreets.com/transportation/island-avenue-improvement-project or contact transportationImprovement@phila.gov