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Greening of Spring Garden St. could mean a more transportation-friendly arterial

Spring Garden St. is one of Center City’s prime east-west arterials, connecting the art museum on one side with the Delaware River on the other. Yet, there is a pervasive feeling that the four-lane artery is not living up to its potential. Because of this feeling, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), in conjunction with Sam Schwartz Engineering and Interface Studios, held a public information session last week to discuss how to create a Spring Garden Street greenway that would better cater it to all forms of transportation.

Many attendees of the meeting represented bicycle interests, which PEC was well-positioned to address as a bicycle and pedestrian trail advocacy group. Speakers at the meeting representing PEC, Sam Schwartz, and Interface announced two options that would make conditions safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders. Doug Adams, a project manager at Sam Schwartz, revealed that consultants were looking into buffered bike lanes either in the center median of the street, or curbside.

Given this was the first public meeting for the greenway, there were very few absolutes. There were some areas where consultants were strongly leaning towards a course of action. For example, Adams said both alternatives recommended that the forward travel lanes on Spring Garden be reduced from 12 feet each to 10 feet each. Also, both alternatives call for buffered bike lanes, although it is still up for debate as to whether the buffer will be landscaping, like is being proposed for Market St. and JFK Blvd. in Center City, or a parking lane.

The planning team also expressed a desire to improve conditions for pedestrians and transit riders. Adams said that brighter lighting would likely be included for pedestrians, especially along blocks that can currently feel a little intimidating to walk along. Spencer Finch, PEC’s director for sustainable infrastructure, also previewed some potential conveniences for transit riders. “A connection to the (Broad-Ridge) spur subway might be created at Ridge and Spring Garden,” says Finch.

Consultants are also discussing better stormwater management along the street. Adams mentions bioswales, rain gardens, and porous pavement as techniques that the consulting team is analyzing. One of the more controversial ideas being batted around is the option of eliminating vehicular left-turn lanes, which would force motorists to make three right turns instead. This would be helpful if the public and the consultants decide they prefer the median bike lanes.

This meeting was the first public input session of many to be held. It will be a fairly long process, as speakers said the earliest possible completion date for the greenway will be 2014 or 2015. Finch did re-assure the crowd that there was support for making Spring Garden St. more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly from all city council members who represent the area, as well as from various relevant city agencies. With that in mind, just about every part of the greenway is still up for debate. It’s now up to the people who live, commute, work, and/or shop along the corridor to provide the debate.  

Sources: Spencer Finch, Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Doug Adams, Sam Schwartz Engineering
Author: Andy Sharpe
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