Lane reduction, safety improvements planned for Castor Avenue

Castor Avenue will go from four lanes to two, but the project isn’t moving fast enough for State Rep. Jared Solomon following a recent death.

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Big changes are coming to Castor Avenue between Oxford Circle and Bell’s Corner.

State officials plan to reduce the number of lanes from four to two and make other adjustments to the 3-mile stretch in an attempt to reduce crashes.

However, for state Rep. Jared Solomon, whose district covers Castor from Comly Street to Cottman Avenue, the changes aren’t coming fast enough. 

“It’s one of our most dangerous roads in the city,” Solomon told the Northeast Times. “We cannot keep waiting.”

A Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman said the redesign is expected to go out to bid next March, with construction anticipated as early as May 2021. 

That’s not good enough for Solomon. Just last month, 82-year-old Oxford Circle resident Antoinette Pifani was killed while crossing Castor near Robbins Avenue.

“We’ve just got to fix it, and no one can tell me we’ve got to wait because I can’t tell the next family, ‘Oh, well, we needed to do some more work-ups. We needed to do some more measurements,’ ” Solomon said.

After learning PennDOT’s timetable, Solomon was frustrated and pledged to do everything in his power to speed up the process.

“It’s very disappointing,” he said. “It’s really unacceptable.”

There were 328 crashes on Castor between Roosevelt Boulevard and Bustleton Avenue from 2014 to 2018, according to PennDOT crash data. Three people were killed, and eight people are suspected to have sustained serious injuries.

Crashes from 2019 and 2020 have not yet been added to the department’s safety data.

Solomon said Castor should be redesigned to look like Rising Sun Avenue, where he said traffic moves slower and there are far fewer accidents.

“We’ve got to slow folks down,” he added. “Everyone’s going to get to where they need to go.”

PennDOT is planning to put Castor on what it calls a “road diet.” 

Currently, there are two lanes in each direction, and, north of Cottman, a center turn lane. Once the project is finished, there will be one lane in each direction along with a center turn lane and a bike lane. Parking lanes are projected to remain. 

The street is wider north of Cottman, so there will be an extra 5-foot buffer between the bike lane and traffic. PennDOT’s plans do not mention anything about a protected bike path.

In addition, there will be a four-way stop sign set up at Robbins (right now, traffic on Castor doesn’t have to stop), and pedestrian signals and upgraded traffic lights will be installed between Comly Street and Cottman. There will also be curb, signing and pavement marking improvements on that section of Castor, according to PennDOT.

Overhead wires used by SEPTA’s Route 59 trackless trolley will need to be shifted to accommodate the changes. ••