Washington Ave Statement
Over the weekend, OTIS shamefully backtracked from its final design choice for the Washington Avenue Repaving and Improvement Project. The three lane option received wide support from residents and advocates over seven years of public meetings, studies, surveys, and outreach to 26 RCOs and civic associations and was chosen as the final design in September 2020. The move was championed by Feet First Philly and other groups seeking to improve safety for all road users along this diverse and historically dangerous corridor. This process was transparent with public meetings and a survey that were well advertised and promoted to roadway users, business owners, and surrounding communities.
That’s why we are saddened and disappointed by this callous decision by OTIS and local leaders that doesn’t prioritize the safety of pedestrians, transit riders, motorists, and cyclists who use Washington Ave to get to work, school, healthcare appointments, and other destinations. OTIS has delayed this project for over a year, and this decision now to walk away from the previously chosen, safest option is a slap in the face for anyone who walks, rolls, or rides along Washington Avenue.
During this time, a working group whose members are unknown was formed and a new paper survey was created and distributed without public outreach and notification by OTIS. All of this was done unbeknownst to the general public behind closed doors. That process still resulted in the three lane option receiving overwhelming support. By eliminating the three lane option in spite of the support it has received, OTIS has decided that maximizing pedestrian safety is less important than prioritizing driver experience. It also reinforces false narratives that roadway safety and Vision Zero are inequitable and lead to gentrification. The truth is roadway violence disproportionately affects communities of color and low income residents, and ignoring safety needs will continue to lead to these inequitable outcomes.
This decision undercuts public trust in planning and civic engagement and will make all future Vision Zero projects more difficult. We hope OTIS, Mayor Kenney, and Councilmembers Johnson and Squilla realize their error, and correct this mistake before more people are injured or killed by preventable traffic violence.
The City has put forward two options that would marginally improve safety on Washington Avenue, and a meeting will be held on March 1st, with details still to come. We still believe that the 3 lane option is the safest configuration for Washington Avenue and should remain in consideration. We will provide an update on the meeting and more details on the remaining roadway options soon.