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Residents skeptical of State Road proposal

City officials last week presented a plan to install a protected bike lane and reduce parking on State Road between Linden and Grant avenues.

Jeannette Brugger, of the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability, speaks Jan. 13 to residents at the East Torresdale Civic Association meeting about a proposal to reconfigure State Road between Linden and Grant avenues. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

Officials last week gathered feedback from the East Torresdale Civic Association about a proposal to redesign State Road between Linden and Grant avenues.

The plan, still in its early stages, is to put a protected bike lane on the east side of the street, similar to what was installed on Ryan Avenue near Abraham Lincoln High School. It would also cut parking on that side of State Road by more than 50 percent.

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“This is the first step in this conversation,” Jeannette Brugger told a packed house Jan. 13 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church. “Nothing is set in stone.”

Neighbors questioned the need for a protected bike lane and worried about the loss of parking, which they said is an issue near the Torresdale Regional Rail station. 

Brugger, of the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability, said State Road is being looked at because it is scheduled to be repaved this year and has been identified by the city as a road with a high number of accidents.

From 2014 to 2018, there were 48 crashes on State Road between Linden and Grant, according to Brugger’s presentation. Thirty-two people were injured and one person was killed.

In addition, State Road is set to become a key connection point in several local and regional trail networks, she said. The hope is for cyclists to be able to use the street to access Pennypack Park and trails in Bensalem.

Right now, State Road has conventional bike lanes on both sides. Residents said the street is not popular with cyclists; Brugger agreed, but said it is because the current situation is not safe.

“How the bike lanes are right now are not really usable,” she said. “It’s pretty scary to bike out there.”

The proposal is to eliminate the bike lane on the west side of the street and create a two-way bike lane on the other side shielded by parked cars and delineator poles. 

Traffic lanes would not be affected. That section of State Road was reduced from four lanes to two lanes several years ago. 

Both sides would still have parking lanes, Brugger said. However, to improve sightlines for people pulling out of driveways, the proposal calls for the number of parking spots on State Road’s east side to be reduced from 77 to 37.

Brugger said officials conducted a study counting parked cars on that stretch of State Road and found that not many spaces were taken up.

Neighbors disputed the numbers, saying the area is often crammed with cars belonging to train riders who cannot park in the SEPTA lot, which fills up daily.

“What I’m hearing is that we need to recheck our numbers and go back at a time when it’s more full,” Brugger said.

City Council legislation is required for the project because of the amount of parking being eliminated.

The original presentation included a slide that indicated that officials would ask for a letter of support from residents. However, a later version of the slideshow posted online said support would be pursued in the “future.”

Brugger said in an email that her office, OTIS, is hoping to revisit ETCA in February. 

Officials hope to complete the project during the 2020 paving season, which Brugger said runs from March to October or November, depending on weather.

Among those in attendance at the Jan. 13 ETCA meeting was state Sen. John Sabatina Jr., who said he wanted to get a sense of how residents felt about the proposal.

ETCA President Joe Carson said the organization may explore the possibility of creating a permit parking zone in the area, which could ease parking concerns.

“I think what I heard tonight is there’s more homework that needs to be done,” he said. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com.

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