For years, the Administration has worked with Council, advocates, and neighbors to make Washington Avenue safer and more accessible for all. We have and will always remain committed to fair and thorough engagement processes to ensure we engage highly impacted and involved groups as well as every community and every neighborhood we serve.
Community Engagement Process
Since 2013, the City has been doing public engagement and has heard from multiple stakeholders on the various perspectives and needs of Washington Avenue. Throughout the engagement process, we reached over 12,000 people through 67 public meetings, two surveys, 4 online videos, as well as conversations via phone, text, mail, email, and social media amounting to the largest engagement process for any street improvement process to date.
This engagement process was a focus of City efforts in recent years and included several in-person meetings with residents and registered community organizations (RCOs) along the entire corridor to get input on how to make the street safer when it is repaved in 2022. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 required the City to quickly transition to innovative community engagement methods that complied with stay-at-home orders. There were various opportunities for people to learn more about the proposed options and to provide input via an online survey, videos, phone, text, mail, email, and social media in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
In 2021 and early 2022 there were also informal open-door working groups which included at various times: neighbors on both east and west sides of Washington Avenue, businesses, and advocacy groups. Through this process, we have learned lessons that we are carrying forward and will continue to implement within our processes. We don’t always get this right and we are steadfast in our continued commitment to improving our engagement processes to meet the needs of every Philadelphian throughout our city.
Parking and Loading Regulations
The Washington Avenue project was designed comprehensively with each element integral to an overall design to improve safety and support a healthy business corridor. The City’s analysis has shown the need for increased parking and loading options to maintain a consistent flow of people in vehicles, including people taking the bus. The necessary legislation was provided to Councilmembers Johnson and Squilla for their consideration and passage.
We thank Councilmember Squilla for the introduction of parking and loading legislation within the first council district and are disappointed that Councilmember Johnson did not introduce the necessary legislation to support the layout changes and traffic calming improvements for the second district. Without the necessary legislation passing for the full corridor, the March 1, 2022 proposal or “mix-lane layout” project will now be implemented from 4th to 11th Streets and include limited improvements with pavement markings stretching to 16th Street.
Responding to what we heard through the community engagement process, adjustments were made in the “mixed lane layout” specifically regarding pedestrian safety. The following are the traffic safety improvements that will be implemented from 4th Street to 11th Street on Washington Avenue:
- Road diet with shorter pedestrian crossings
- Protected bike lane
- Speed cushions and speed slots
- Soft rumble strips
- Corner wedges
- Hardened centerlines at select locations
- Automated red-light cameras
- Bus boarding islands
- PPA enforcement of loading and parking zones
Repaving will begin in fall 2022 and restriping and additional safety improvements will follow the repaving. A start date is currently being worked out with the contractor and will be announced as soon as it is confirmed.
As repaving begins and we look ahead, the reconfiguration of Washington Avenue will ultimately increase traffic safety and improve the quality of life for this and the next generation. The City remains committed to creating safe streets and we will continue to evaluate Washington Avenue after initial repaving to explore the possibility of implementing other safety improvements on the West side in the future. Reflecting on this process gives us a chance to assess what was achieved, reassess what has worked and what has not worked, and renew our commitment to reducing traffic deaths to zero by 2030. We know that equitable community engagement is crucial to our work and we will continue to show up in our communities and facilitate open-ended conversations about traffic safety to design projects collaboratively to make our streets safer.
In addition to Washington Avenue, the City is working on many street improvement projects to create a roadway system that everyone feels comfortable traveling along, no matter their mode of transportation. Vision Zero is a challenging goal, but a goal worth pursuing because all Philadelphians deserve safe streets.