Route for Change hosts open houses for Roosevelt Boulevard

Route for Change, sponsored by the city, SEPTA and PennDOT, hosted three open houses to gain feedback from neighbors about potential updates to the boulevard.

Route for Change last week hosted the first of three open houses about changes to Roosevelt Boulevard at American Heritage Federal Credit Union in Bustleton.

Safety for all users of the boulevard is the top priority with the recommendations to be implemented by 2025, said Angela Dixon of the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability. Other priorities were reliability and accessibility.

Two long-term options were presented to drastically change the boulevard.

Option 1: Similar to the Vine Street expressway, the inner lanes of the boulevard would become higher speed express lanes. The inner lanes would be unsignalized for higher-capacity travel. Outer lanes would be slower and provide easier access to surrounding businesses.

This option includes:

  • Four northbound vehicular lanes, two of which would be express, and two of which would be outer lanes at reduced speed.
  • Four southbound vehicular lanes, the same as the northbound ones.
  • Two two-way protected bike lanes.
  • Two BRT (bus rapid transit) or light rail lanes.
  • Access onto and off of express lanes via ramps at nine locations.

Option 2: This one is known as the neighborhood boulevard, with the idea of narrowing and slowing the boulevard down. This would add 30-35 additional signalized locations (the presenter said they’ve identified 29) to allow pedestrians more options of crossing the boulevard and vehicles more options of making left turns onto the boulevard to reduce congestion at the current intersections.

This option includes:

  • Three northbound vehicular lanes.
  • Three southbound vehicular lanes.
  • Two two-way protected bike lanes.
  • Two side median BRT or light rail lanes.
  • Two parking/delivery lanes, which would double as bus lanes or right turn-only lanes.

Speakers presented the idea of walkable transit stations, with one potential location being the intersection at Grant Avenue and Welsh Road. The idea is to include mixed use buildings that residents wouldn’t mind walking to, including residential housing and retail.

For cosmetic changes, the boulevard was broken into two different “typologies,” determined by median size and the usage of buildings along and surrounding the boulevard. The boulevard’s presence in the Northeast was in the second typology, which found that it mostly saw commercial and retail use along the boulevard.

Ideas to implement along the boulevard are incorporating more trees, stone walls and public art to the medians.

A presenter also noted they want to address that some medians get as thin as 5 feet, which could make crossing more challenging for some pedestrians, such as a parent with a stroller.

According to PennDOT, 196 people were killed or seriously injured on the boulevard from 2013 to 2017. There were 2,695 crashes that happened along the boulevard in the same time frame, 83 percent of which were driver-to-driver crashes. Pedestrian deaths and serious injuries make up 30 percent of all severe crashes along the boulevard, and a quarter of all traffic crashes leading to death or serious injuries along the boulevard were from the vehicle hitting a fixed object.

Boulevard Direct, an express bus route that connects Frankford Transportation Center and Neshaminy Mall via the boulevard, was an earlier project implemented by SEPTA and those involved in Route for Change after receiving feedback from neighbors.

Since the bus started back in October 2017, transit ridership on the boulevard increased by 5 percent. The project is considered a success, and there are plans for possible route expansion, extending out to the Wissahickon Transportation Center.

Translation services for Russian and Spanish-speaking neighbors was available at the meeting.

The changes to the boulevard are a part of Vision Zero, a strategy to eliminate all traffic-related deaths in the city by 2030. Some of the ideas presented will not be implemented far into the future, even within the next 10 years. This year, they will finalize the 2040 alternatives and develop an implementation plan for 2025 projects. The plan will be released this year.

Another open house was hosted June 11 at the Lenfest Center and a third was hosted at the Regal Ballroom June 12. More information is available at RooseveltBlvd.com.