Feet First Philly is deeply disappointed that Washington Avenue will not receive the three-lane option, which is the safest repaving and improvement option for all road users. The three-lane option was supported by seven years of public meetings, studies, surveys, which included outreach to 26 RCOs and civic associations, and was publicly announced as the final design choice in September 2020.
The City of Philadelphia announced that it will reconfigure Washington Avenue’s current five-lane layout to the mixed three-, four-, and five-lane option. This will incrementally improve pedestrian safety on this dangerous corridor that is part of the City’s High Injury Network, but not to the extent of the originally selected three lane option. While this may seem like a compromise between the safest and most dangerous options for Washington Avenue, we believe pedestrians who walk and roll along Washington Avenue should not have to compromise personal safety for driver experience. We are particularly concerned about some of the most critical areas to pedestrians – near parks, schools, and shopping centers – that have been expanded to 4 lanes under this new design selection from the originally selected three-lane design.
In addition, the way this process has played out, including walking back a widely supported option that maximized safety, and making its updated decision without an opportunity for public input, undercuts public trust in planning and civic engagement and will make future Vision Zero projects more difficult. 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 inequitable outcomes. We hope the Kenney Administration and City Council reflect on their decision to not finalize the safest option for pedestrians, and urge them to prioritize pedestrian safety, especially along the City’s High Injury Network, when upgrading roadways in the future.