The stretch of South 11th Street spanning from Bainbridge to Reed will soon receive a series of infrastructure alterations geared toward addressing safety concerns.
For the past year, the thoroughfare, which cuts through the Passyunk Square and Bella Vista neighborhoods, has been the subject of a major repaving and safety project led by the city of Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability.
Based on several months of community engagement, the reconstruction, which started a milling process in early July and is currently undergoing street adjustments, will work to counter several safety issues faced by drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
“This is an opportunity for improvement,” said Jeannette Brugger, the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for oTIS. “Because, there’s a lot of extra space on 11th Street today that is begging to be used for something else.”
The key elements of the project include repaving over antiquated trolley tracks, creating painted pedestrian bulb-outs on intersections, implementing two-way protected bicycle lanes on the west side of the street and establishing alternative loading zones off of 11th Street.
Brugger says each of these components reflect apprehensions presented to oTIS by residents who use various modes of transportation on the street.
Since last summer, oTIS began surveying a range of people, including pedestrians, transit users and crossing guards, seeking their insight on the current operations of 11th Street.
oTIS says city staff surveyed more than 50 people walking along the street.
Brugger says the chief concerns included the presence of trolley tracks, the lack of regard for traffic lights and pedestrians and drivers attempting to navigate around loading trucks coming in and out of business along the corridor.
“How people use 11th Street right now is they do a lot of parking and loading – double parking and business loading – in the roadway,” she said. “And, that’s something that is not safe for anyone involved.”
Continuing the community outreach, local residents convened on the corner of 11th and Fitzwater streets last Tuesday evening, when members of oTIS held a pop-up meeting to answer questions and address concerns about the project.
Several locals who frequent the street as drivers, pedestrians and cyclists echoed the concerns Brugger discussed.
“I think the streets are for people and right now, streets are designed solely for cars and if people get in their way, well, that’s their problem,” said nearby resident Andrew Saltz. “And, we have too many people who die just doing basic things – getting back and forth to work, crossing the street or biking somewhere. So, the street’s got to be adapted for people.”
Saltz says a substantial issue includes drivers, pedestrians and cyclists steering around the trolley tracks.
Often, he notices bicycle wheels getting caught in the metal tracks. Drivers also tend to avoid them, maneuvering around the tracks by even crossing the double yellow lines into traffic flowing in the opposite direction.
Other meeting attendees expressed similar thoughts.
“It’s a really dangerous street,” said Bella Vista resident Noah Goldman. “It gives me anxiety to ride my bike…when you get to the trolley tracks, you have to learn to cut as perpendicular as possible. When you’re on your bike, you can’t kind of ease into it. But, it’s like any other street – if you’re on a bike, everything with four wheels is something that could potentially kill you.”
Since 11th Street serves as a crucial roadway for South Philadelphians commuting to work in Center City, Brugger says the project is intended to bridge any gaps in the city’s bike lane system, especially throughout neighborhoods in South Philly.
In an effort to establish designated lanes for modes of transportation, the project includes a two-way bike lane running on the west side of the street, as this side is comprised of fewer businesses drawing loading trucks.
“For the bike lane, it gives drivers a reminder that there are bikes there,” said Passyunk Square resident Miles Owen. “A lot of times, if they don’t see the bike lane, they’re not looking for bikes. They make this big motion with their (loading) trucks, and they might just view the bike lane as a shoulder that they’re able to use. Whereas having a visual reminder with green paint, with bike signs, with all that – that keeps that in their mind, so they’re more looking out for us.”
From January to May 2019, oTIS says city staff also held 25 meetings with business owners and other stakeholders regarding loading needs and new loading zone locations.
Brugger says oTIS is working with the city Department of Streets, Philadelphia Parking Authority and local businesses to redirect loading zones off of 11th Street and onto side streets, such as Fitzwater.
“We don’t want to put in something that doesn’t work for the businesses,” she said.
Each intersection along 11th Street will also feature painted pedestrian bulb-outs at crosswalks, which aims to reduce the long pedestrian crossing distance while dedicating space for cyclists and drivers up to the corner.
The design, which includes green paint, flex posts and plastic quick curbs to highlight separate spaces, ideally will prevent illegal car parking that obstructs sightlines for drivers making turns. The bulb-out will also improve the safety of waiting areas for transit riders.
“We know that just painted lines alone are not going to direct people where to go, because painted lines don’t stop everyone from parking over them,” Brugger said. “So, a vertical element is going to be really important in this project.”
Though the construction schedule is weather dependent, street paving is expected to start in early August, and street line striping and flex post installation should be completed by September.
Based on surveys completed at an April 2019 public meeting, 93 percent of the 71 respondents supported the resurfacing and safety project, according to oTIS.
“The roads are not built for all of us to share, and so we should do something about it…People are going to be people,” Saltz said. “And so, you need to build a road to make sure people are doing the right things.”
To learn more about the project, visit here.