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February 17, 2022

Bike lane extensions along parts of Chestnut, Market streets in West Philly aim to improve road safety

The two sections are included in the city's Vision Zero High Injury Network, which tracks progress toward the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities by 2030

Transportation Roads
West Philly traffic safety project Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

A parking-protected bike lane between 34th and 45th streets along Chestnut Street in West Philly will be extended to 63rd Street as part of an upcoming traffic safety improvement project.

Sections of Chestnut and Market streets in West Philadelphia, considered among the city's most prone to motor vehicle accidents, will undergo a transformation this year that will seek to make both roadways safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

City officials unveiled plans Wednesday for a traffic safety improvement project that will get underway in 2022 along more than two miles of both Chestnut and Market streets in West Philly.

A parking-protected bike lane that was installed between 34th and 45th streets along Chestnut Street in 2017 will be extended to 63rd Street. The extended bike lane will result in the reduction of a vehicle lane between 45th and 63rd streets. The existing parking-protected bike lane between 34th and 45th streets will also be upgraded.

The planned improvements to Chestnut Street also include painted pedestrian refuge areas along the northern curb of each block to decrease crossing distance in front of vehicle lanes and streamlined driver space to discourage aggressive driving.

The painted bike lanes that run between 34th and 63rd streets along Market Street will be extended in both directions to 30th street, filling a four-block gap that will connect West Philly to 30th Street Station and Center City.

On-street parking along the south side of Market Street between 30th and 34th streets will be removed. Existing loading zones along Market Street will be relocated to adjacent roads. Market Street will still have two vehicle lanes in each direction, turn lanes, parking along its north side and curbside SEPTA bus stops.

The city said it is working with the Philadelphia Parking Authority and SEPTA on a new roadway layout and updated curbside parking and loading rules.

The project will be completed as part of a scheduled repaving of both streets by PennDOT. A specific date for when construction will begin remains unknown, but it is likely to take place between March and October. The project is being funded by the state.

Both sections of Chestnut and Market streets are part of the city's Vision Zero High Injury Network, which consists of 12% of city streets that account for 80% of serious and fatal crashes in Philly. 

From 2016 through 2020, Chestnut Street had a crash rate of 25 accidents per mile annually between 45th and 63rd streets. That was nearly double the annual crash rate experienced on Chestnut Street between 34th and 45th streets. 

During that same time period, 40 people were injured in crashes between 30th and 34th streets on Market Street.

"Our administration is committed to making critical investments in traffic safety improvements that not only enhance our neighborhoods but also ensure no one has to grieve the loss of a loved one as a result of a traffic crash," Mayor Jim Kenney said.

City officials have pointed to the redesigned stretch of Chestnut Street from 34th Street to 45th streets as a model for the upcoming project. Along with the creation of a parking-protected bike lane, the redesign decreased the number of travel lanes and pedestrian exposure.

After the redesign, 60% of pedestrians said they felt safer when crossing the street, according to the city. The number of speeding motorists declined by 47% and the number of people riding bicycles on sidewalks was cut in half. Bike-involved crashes were all but eliminated. 

The city's initial project proposal released last year also called for traffic safety improvements between 22nd and 63rd streets along Walnut Street in West Philly. However, that portion of Walnut Street will not be repaved and fixed up this year. 

Philadelphia's plans to move ahead with its traffic safety project for Chestnut and Market streets comes in the wake of the city's decision earlier this month to amend its proposed improvements to Washington Avenue in South Philly.

The project's original layout, which received overwhelming support from local residents two years ago, would have reduced most of Washington Avenue between 4th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue from five driving lanes to three. It also would have added two parking-protected bike lanes and kept two parking lanes.

Construction was originally scheduled to begin last year, but the project was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to gather more input from residents who felt underrepresented during the initial evaluation process.

However, after receiving additional public feedback and conducting more analysis of its proposals, the city decided to nix the original three-lane plan in favor of a largely four-lane option and mixed layout between three and four lanes.

The proposed improvements will include emergency vehicle signal preemption, concrete floating bus islands and speed-monitoring signs. The city said it will look into the implementation of red light cameras at intersections along the corridor as well.

Washington Avenue is also also part of the city's Vision Zero High Injury Network. Between 2012 and 2018, there were 254 crashes along the roadway — many of which involved pedestrians and cyclists.

The Washington Avenue improvement project is scheduled to get underway this year. A public open house regarding the finalized plans is scheduled for March 1.

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