Philadelphia is the best city in the U.S., hands-down.
But depsite its magnificence, it does have its problems.
One of those problems is Roosevelt Boulevard, a 12-lane highway that runs through the middle of a fairly populous part of the city.
Every year, there are about 700 crashes and 10 traffic fatalities on this single street. A 2001 review by State Farm Insurance found that two of the three most dangerous intersections in the United States are on Roosevelt Boulevard. (source).
In response to the dangerous conditions the Philadelphia Parking Authority started using speed cameras last June at eight intersections along the Boulevard. Between June and February, 700,000 warnings or tickets for speeding were issued to drivers. The cameras seemed to work. In the first month, there were 224,000 speeding violations recorded by the cameras; the number of violations dropped to 16,776 by February. (source)
But the city has even bigger plans. (source)
This past Friday, the city released both short-term and long-term proposals to improve safety for both drivers and pedestrians. Some measures have already been rolled out in the last few years, but there are also other changes that could be in place by 2025, as well as two multi-billion-dollar suggestions to radically transform the 12-lane boulevard by 2040.
Talk about planning ahead.
The proposed changes are part of the Roosevelt Boulevard Route for Change Program, a collective effort by the City of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and SEPTA first launched in 2016 using federal grant dollars.
The report lays out several goals by 2025, including:
- Changing traffic signal cycle times
- Realigning crosswalks and curb ramps
- Closing sidewalk gaps
- Building curb extensions
- Improving bus stops
- Adding bus-only lanes
- Adding landscaping and art
The report also lays out some goals by 2040, with two plans that could help to accompish such goals.
- The first would be a $1.9 billion “neighborhood boulevard,” while the other would be a much more radical, $10.8 billion “partially capped expressway.”
- The second plan would be a much more radical, a $10.8 billion “partially capped expressway.” This woud enttail part of the highway moving underground.
I don’t know much about the Big Dig project that took place in Boston, but a quick peek at WIkipedia offers perhaps some similarities:
Planning began in 1982, and the project was completed by 2006. It was the most expenisve highway project ever in the U.S. costing, in today’s dollars, about $21.5 billion dollars. Cost oevrruns resulted in the final cost being neearly three times the original estimate.
I’ve driven on the Roosevelet Boulevard before (fortunately not very often), and I will attest to it being a stressful experience.
So I was excited to hear about these plans. I love seeing people, and orgainizations, making long-term plans. While it is hard to imagine what the word will be like twenty years from now, I think it is important to be proactive in such matters, particualrly when such improvements could save lives.
Hopefully, Philadelphia can learn a thing or two from Boston’s Big Dig that will help keep the project on schedule and within budget.
And when it’s all complete, hopefully I’ll be able to take my 2006 Matrix for a drive under the Roosevelt Boulevard.
Perhaps the underground can be named the Sub Rosey Highway, in honor of the Klaatu song Sub Rosa Subway, written in memory of the efforts of Alfred Ely Beach to create the Beach Pneumatic Transit, the New York City Subway’s precursor.