Ouch — friction online over PennDOT’s plans for safety/speeding improvements along our stretch of Henry Avenue! Tuesday night’s meeting looks like a doozie already… 

Heads up! This meeting should make for some interesting video if the chatter on Nextdoor is any indication. Community Council’s traffic committee has been bickering quite publicly, with a few former/current members pushing for a roundabout that their own chair considers unrealistic.

Until East Falls can agree to a compromise, Henry Avenue’s speeding and safety issues will remain for all of us to enjoy — not just Fallsers, but any other neighborhoods along these 6 miles from Strawberry Mansion into Roxborough.  Everyone’s waiting for upgrades while East Falls demands “the best.”

BTW, who’s to say a roundabout here is best anyway?

Take a google, or read the posts we recently researched on them and other traffic-calming methods available in 2017. We were intrigued to learn how safe and efficient roundabouts can be — but not in all situations. PennDOT’s traffic engineers studied the area in 2015, and concluded that Henry Avenue moves way too much traffic per day to consider such radical adjustments.

But would roundabouts here make the area safer, at least? What does PhillyU think? Seems to us the University would have a vested interest in providing the safest possible environment for their students.

University rep Tom Becker told members at a recent EFF meeting that PhillyU does not support a traffic circle on Henry. “It’d divide our campus,” he said, “and we don’t feel it’d be safer for our students.”

PhillyU supports the improvements PennDOT proposes as a good first step we can immediately implement.  Tom also told us he hopes that the traffic committee will end this stalemate for everyone’s safety.

So do we!  But signs on Nextdoor are not good, guys…

NOTE: The character depicted is “Madame,” a sassy puppet popular in the 70’s.

For starters,  traffic committee chair John Gillespie’s been taking some heat. Seems three former/current traffic committee members are huffy that he’s willing to work with PennDOT rather than support their efforts to turn Henry Ave into a country lane.

“Contact Bill Epstein to request a change in leadership of the traffic committee,” Ellen Kennedy actually posted at the end of January, when East Falls’ forum began to heat up with angry, hyperbolic comments — not without push-back (and forth again).

Still, Ray Lucci sided with Ellen: “Tens of thousands of commuters pass THROUGH East Falls,” he chimed in after “respectfully” disagreeing with John, “and they are speeding through with little regard for the safety of the people who live here or themselves for that matter.”

Ray also provided some surprisingly convoluted reasoning as to why only certain traffic committee members are informed enough to weigh in on East Falls traffic issues:

“Recent pieces/discussions I have seen in local venues suffer from a lack of reliable sources, attention to fundamental facts and thorough research of regional history. Furthermore, missteps in these discussions when defining or using the terminology of the technology designed to ameliorate serious traffic problems more often leads to misinformation and confusion. And in these tweeting times of over-reliance on social media, blogs and similar venues, this leads more to a fractured social forum entrenched in and ensnared by misconceptions and suspicions.”

Damn us amateurs who just live here, right? What do we know about driving and parking? (And reading.) Step away from the traffic, people… Nothing to see here…!

In another thread, EFL favorite Meg Greenfield trolled for Henry Ave “carnage” photos, and encouraged neighbors to bring them to Tuesday’s meeting — shock & awe, I guess? “Follow up question: would what PennDOT is proposing have prevented this?”  Siiiiigh.

TRUE STORY: The Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia reviewed our city’s 21,000 (!) intersections last August and Henry Avenue did not make the “Top 12 Most Dangerous” list — we turn up at #22, which is still kinda terrifying when you consider we keep stalling on basic safety measures.

Of course NO accidents would be ideal for every intersection, everywhere. But John’s right, we have to deal in reality. And we could use some help here now please!

Maybe we could start with PennDOT’s plan? Maybe negotiate some extras like a traffic cop or top-of-the-line radar signs? If the area still needs radical changes, PhillyU can build an overpass like St. Joe’s and Villanova who both have major roads running thru their campus.

Or an underpass! PhillyU would consider diverting Henry under the bridge, where it has subterranean supports for a subway station that never happened. The U’s jam is innovative engineering, it’d be cool to see what they came up with for their campus. And it’s downright unneighborly to dismiss PhillyU’s opinions and force major changes upon them against their wishes. 

BTW: How do Fallsers feel about a roundabout on Henry?  EFF has a verrrrrry informal Open Survey on traffic and parking issues. The questions are not designed to provide any true statistical data, the aim is simply to open up public discussions.

Early results are in (scroll to end of article) — looks like a big “NO!” for roundabouts but we’ll do another tally again soon to make sure we factor in as many responses as possible.  Take the fun, easy survey to get your needs & wants counted, even if you’re not a traffic expert! 

Meanwhile, “Henry hysteria” continues online…  We’ll certainly have our cameras ready Tuesday night to catch all the fireworks, but you really have to be here to fully appreciate the spectacle. Hope to see you there or at least meet up at Murphy’s afterwards to debrief over beers… TUES MAR 7, 7PM EF PRESBY (map & info here)

http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/09/28/penndot-and-septa-schuylkill-expressway-project/

P.S. Perhaps there’s hope after all, as Ray Lucci and neighbor Sean Marzolf found common ground in a recent Nextdoor thread —

Sean
I am familiar with roundabouts. I have analyzed the feasibility for a roundabout at several existing and proposed intersections. I have even designed one. I happen to disagree that a roundabout is appropriate anywhere on Henry…Agree or disagree on a roundabout as a solution, I think it is reasonable to assume that it would many take years to study the feasibility, complete a design, bid, and construct a roundabout. Best case I’d guess eight years, and that’s if no one sues to prevent it. In the mean time, what is being done?

For members of our community to insist that PennDOT and the City fix the problem, then to reject any solution that doesn’t agree with the preconceived solution is foolish. It sends the message that this community will never be happy no matter what. Instead of opposing real improvements that can be implemented quickly, doesn’t it make sense to pursue both short term and long term solutions?

Ray
Sean, I agree with several of your points. The toolbox of traffic calming, as I have come to understand it, is very large and there are many ways to get the job done. The problem is that PennDOT may not either be willing to implement any of them because there may exist an overriding agenda. We need to press the folks from PennDot when they come on Tuesday for full disclosure and whether their plans for improvement of safety features on Henry stands alone or is somehow tied to the plans for I-76 currently under consideration. No matter where or how folks stand on this very important issue, public safety must be paramount. If they can do something to the cross streets at their intersection with Henry such as bump-outs for greater pedestrian visibility and safety when crossing the streets, I am all for it.

READ UP: “Roundabouts Are Not a Silver Bullet — How to Know When a Roundabout is Not the Right Design.”

PennDOT on Roundabouts, 2017 

SURVEY RESULTS