Major changes planned for Frankford Avenue corridor

Patricia Ellis (left) and Angie Dixon (right), both from the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, spoke about the Route 66 project during an Aug. 3 meeting at the Holmesburg Branch Library. WILLIAM KENNY / TIMES PHOTO

Nutter administration and SEPTA representatives unveiled plans last week to remove 19 regular stops from the heavily traveled Route 66 trackless trolley along Frankford Avenue. But if riders want to offer up their opinions on the changes, they will have to do it soon because PennDOT began repaving Frankford Avenue on Monday.

And the repaving is supposed to coincide with the removal of the trolley stops, according to officials from the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities who spoke during an Aug. 3 meeting at the Holmesburg Branch Library.

The Route 66 changes have been in the works for several years and are part of a larger plan to employ automated priority signaling throughout the route, which originates at the Frankford Transportation Center (Bridge and Pratt) and terminates at the city line just north of Knights Road.

Under the signal priority system, trolleys are equipped with transmitters that send signals to traffic lights along the route to ensure that the trolleys get extended green lights. The system is supposed to help keep traffic flowing along the route, benefitting all traffic on the avenue, including SEPTA trolleys and private cars.

According to Patricia Ellis, transit policy and planning adviser for the Office of Transportation and Utilities, the principal funding for the $4 million priority signaling project is from a federal Transportation, Community and System Preservation (TCSP) grant, which PennDOT administered and awarded to the city in 2011. SEPTA and Ellis’ office are partners in the project. Three other bus or trolley routes are included: Route 6 on Ogontz Avenue, Route 52 on 52nd Street and Route 60 on Allegheny Avenue. As for eliminating Route 66 stops, SEPTA’s senior operations planner, Dan Nemiroff, told residents at the Holmesburg Library meeting that stops will be removed to promote efficiency and safety on the route.

“This is a route that has a lot of stops at uncontrolled locations,” Nemiroff said, referring to locations without traffic lights or crosswalks.

About 10,000 people ride the 66 each day. Ten southbound stops and nine northbound stops are on the chopping block affecting about 5 percent of riders, Ellis said. At six intersections, stops are to be eliminated in both directions. Additionally, nine stops (seven southbound and two northbound) will be relocated to the “far side” of the intersection. That is, the route signs and street markings will be moved to an opposite corner.

The northern end of the route will be most affected. Fourteen stops are to be eliminated from Strahle Street north. Just one stop will be cut south of Cottman Avenue (the southbound stop at Comly Street). Intersections that will lose stops in both directions are Aldine Street, Academy Road, Aubrey Avenue, Barry Road, Fitler Street and Carteret Drive.

Nemiroff said that the planners chose stops that are within “200 to 300 feet” of another stop and those where there are no traffic signals or crosswalks. They also considered how many riders regularly board at specific stops. SEPTA would rather riders have to walk an extra block instead of crossing traffic at an unmarked intersection, he said. Some audience members were skeptical.

“You’re spending all of this money, why don’t you just fix the (timing on the) traffic lights?” one woman asked.

Another woman asked if the plans were “senior friendly,” arguing that many older folks can’t walk an extra block or two to catch the trolley.

The transportation officials said they spent a lot of time examining the intersections to assess the factors at each. But if someone has a specific reason he or she thinks a stop should be saved, he or she can contact SEPTA via 215–580–7800 or www.septa.org/notice/frankford-ave-corridor.html. The website also has more details about the project.

Ironically, the transportation advisers said at the Aug. 3 meeting that the Route 66 stop changes would remain on hold until PennDOT repaves Frankford Avenue. It’s more practical to change SEPTA signs and street markings as part of the paving project, they explained. At first, there will be signs posted warning riders of the imminent changes. After two weeks, the warning signs will be removed and the selected trolley stops eliminated from the route.

When asked at the meeting about the repaving schedule, the transportation advisers stated only that PennDOT planned to do it between now and November. Four days after the meeting, PennDOT announced that the repaving would begin on Monday and last four weeks. It will affect only from Rhawn Street north to city line. Nighttime travel restrictions will be in place, while crews will also work on utilities and storm inlets on weekdays. ••

All aboard?: Last week, Nutter administration and SEPTA representatives unveiled plans to remove 19 Route 66 trolley stops along Frankford Avenue. The changes are part of a larger plan to employ automated priority signaling throughout the route. WILLIAM KENNY / TIMES PHOTO