East Torresdale residents consider speed cushions

On July 11, neighborhood folks pondered how to slow motorists on residential streets between State Road and Pleasant Hill Park

A worker installs speed cushions on Southampton Road in Somerton in 2015. TIMES PHOTO: WILLIAM KENNY

The East Torresdale Civic Association has become the latest Northeast Philadelphia residents’ group to engage itself in the public discourse about speed cushions.

During the ETCA’s monthly meeting on July 11, neighborhood folks spent about an hour discussing the traffic-calming roadway devices — known commonly as speed bumps, humps or tables — as a strategy for slowing motorists on residential streets between State Road and Pleasant Hill Park, which is one of the Northeast’s few publicly accessible riverfront recreation areas.

Resident Mike Thompson, a retired police officer and political committeeman, told neighbors he asked the city’s Department of Streets to explain the process for getting speed cushions on Linden, Arendel and Delaware avenues. The response he got surprised him: Linden Avenue is already on the city’s list for speed cushion installation.

ETCA President Lew Halas said the civic association had not made a formal request to the Streets Department for the speed cushions, but during the group’s July 2015 meeting, Streets Commissioner David Perri was the guest speaker. That’s when someone asked him informally about the devices.

The problem is, no one asked Perri about including Arendel and Delaware avenues. So they are not part of the proposed Linden Avenue installation. Further, the only thing holding up the Linden installation is the need for a consenting petition of residents. At least 75 percent of Linden homeowners must sign to approve the work.

According to Thompson, that leaves neighbors in a quandary for two reasons. First, they must consider if the humps will solve the speeding problem of if they’ll actually create new problems. Some homeowners may not want to hear the pounding of cars, trucks, trailers and motorcycles navigating the speed cushions. Other homeowners may be fearful of the wear and tear humps may inflict on their own vehicles.

Another caveat may be the practical impact on traffic flow. If motorists find speed cushions on Linden, they may choose to use Arendel to access the park and its boat launch facility. So residents on Arendel would be left to deal with more vehicles than usual.

Compounding those problems, neighbors were concerned about ominous survey work on Linden. One resident said surveyors used spray paint to mark his newly paved driveway, as if they intended to install a hump directly in front of it. He doesn’t think the city should be defacing his property and he doesn’t want a hump positioned at his driveway entrance.

Another resident asked whether the surveyors were considering low-hanging overhead wires when positioning the humps. Tall vehicles that use Linden Avenue often clash with utility wires. The speed cushions could only reduce the clearance.

Halas said he did his own inspection of the survey work and noticed the workers appeared to mark three locations on Linden west of the Cambridge Street stop sign, but only one location east of Cambridge. In his mind, the speeders seem to accelerate east of Cambridge as they approach the riverfront park.

The city has already installed speed cushions in other Northeast locations. There are four on Southampton Road in Somerton. In 2015, the city installed seven cushions between Roosevelt Boulevard and London Road, but neighbors complained about the high number. Last year, the city removed three of the cushions.

In a separate project, the city installed speed cushions on Edison Avenue near the Somerton train station, but they were not installed to specifications and were later removed. There are more cushions on Winchester Avenue in Winchester Park and on Susquehanna Road in Fox Chase, among other locations.

At the conclusion of the ETCA meeting, members agreed to withhold their support for the Linden Avenue installation until getting more details from the Streets Department. They will ask Perri to attend a meeting and address questions. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.