Washington Avenue is a street in disarray.
Cars block traffic and treat its sidewalks like personal driveways, while tense cyclists navigate uneven asphalt alongside speeding motorists. It’s dangerous and in need of a major facelift. Now, Philadelphians will soon get their say on a vision for its future.
City officials are turning to residents to weigh in on three redesign options between Fourth Street and Grays Ferry Avenue ahead of a repaving and improvement project set for next year, the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability announced Monday. The project gives an opportunity to revamp Washington Avenue’s layout to make the street smoother and safer for pedestrians, bikers, drivers, and SEPTA riders.
“While Washington Avenue doesn’t represent the most dangerous street in Philadelphia, we do see it on our high-injury network,” said Lily Reynolds, deputy director of the city’s Complete Streets department. “It’s a safety concern.”
There were 254 reportable crashes and four fatalities on Washington Avenue between 2012 and 2018 — figures Reynolds called “very disturbing.” The city has a goal of zero traffic deaths by 2030 through Vision Zero, its safe streets initiative.
Washington Avenue was last fully repaved in 2003, and after next year won’t be repaved for a decade. The project is part of a paving package budgeted at $15.8 million in federal funds. The city does not have a cost for the Washington Avenue project itself, said Kelley Yemen, director of Complete Streets.
The Delaware River Waterfront Corp. oversees Washington Avenue’s transformation from Fourth Street to Columbus Boulevard.
With its five driving lanes, two parking lanes, and two bike lanes, Washington Avenue can be chaotic. A lack of parking regulations means some hog a spot for hours while cyclists and aggressive drivers weave around double-parked cars and shoot up to red lights.
Three options are under consideration: a three-lane layout, a four-lane layout, and a mixed-lane layout. All would bring parking-protected bike lanes to the street.
The three options are detailed in videos available to watch online in English, Spanish, and soon in Vietnamese and Simplified Chinese.
The short videos detail each plan’s drawbacks and benefits. The three-lane option, for example, could cause more traffic on surrounding streets but make for more pedestrian space by widening some sidewalk space. The four-lane layout forgoes the opportunity to create more space for pedestrians, but wouldn’t create more traffic on nearby streets. A mixed-lane layout is described as “the middle option.”
"We want people to take a look at those and take a look at what are the tradeoffs that are important to them in terms of safety as well as travel time,” Reynolds said.