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The Planning Commission preps new Washington Avenue roadway configuration

Washington Avenue

Washington Avenue, long a snarl of trucks, pedestrians, vendors and cars heading to I-95, is getting a makeover. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) is halfway through a study of the bustling corridor and plan to reveal a new roadway configuration after the new year. 

In late October, PCPC held their first public meeting to discuss the plan. 

"We had great turnout at the meeting," says PCPC South Philadelphia and transportation planner Jeannette Brugger. "People are very passionate about what happens on Washington Avenue -- it's a very complicated project because there's so much going on on the avenue."

People reserved their strongest input for the section around the Italian Market. It's a stretch of Washington with high foot traffic, and also an area where the bike lane briefly stops (before reappearing at 7th Street). One bicyclist or pedestrian is injured every three weeks due to a crash. Making the bike lane continuous is definitely going to happen, but there are multiple options for how to integrate loading, parking and traffic (you can view all the possibilities here).

"You can't fit everything in," explains Brugger. "If you fit a buffered bike lane in, you might not be able to fit the parking and loading that's needed for the success of the businesses. And that's something we definitely want to promote as well. Another thing I was surprised about, in a good way, was that a lot of folks said the street should be made safer for pedestrians, and that the road should narrowed. Safety is one of our goals in the study."

With all the exciting developments on the waterfront -- including Washington Avenue Green (formerly Pier 53) -- the eastern stretch of Washington should see more foot and bike traffic in the coming years. Though PCPC has to work within the current curb lines, there are still options for making the streetscape more inviting for those visitors. Following a second public meeting, the plans should move forward quickly.

"The goal is to put together striping plans for the Streets Department in the next year-or-two," says Brugger. "Enforcement is what's going to make this new roadway configuration actually work. That's up to Licenses & Inspections, the Parking Authority, the Police Department, the council offices. We can put new alignments down, but if business happens as usual, it won't be as successful as it should be."

Writer: Lee Stabert
Source: Jeannette Brugger, Philadelphia City Planning Commission
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