City closing Center City traffic lanes in test
In another attempt to rebalance Philadelphia streets toward pedestrians and cyclists, the city will be closing the left-most lane of traffic on Market Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard between 15th and 20th streets for the next two weeks.
The closure is meant to test an idea — put forward by the Center City District two years ago — that these two arterials could be made more pedestrian and bike friendly without significantly impacting traffic.
Each street will have three lanes open to traffic, and no parking spots will be lost in the experiment.
CCD president and CEO Paul Levy said that his organization has wanted to “improve the public environment” around the “very wide, auto-dominated streets,” which have none of the first-floor businesses and amenities of other Center City arterial streets like Chestnut and Walnut.
An original plan to have both streets run in both directions was shot down by the city because of traffic concerns, according to deputy Streets commissioner Steve Buckley.
But discussions with building owners along the corridor revealed there was a strong interest in adding a dedicated bike lane for Center City professionals who bike to work, Levy said.
The bike lane would go in the closed lanes, which, if this test is successful, would be separated from traffic by a landscaped buffer or a raised hard surface, as well as a row of parked cars.
The temporary closures will be much less aesthetically oriented. Instead of landscaping, expect traffic cones and pedestrian barriers
Buckley said the city expects the lane closures to have minimal impact on traffic — besides some additional congestion at rush hour — and that the city will monitor the situation to see if that prediction pans out.
Levy said success would hinge on whether the city and Philadelphia Parking Authority enforce rules against double-parking — which he said frequently happens on the streets now, but which could gum up traffic in the new configuration.
The closures are just the latest in a series of moves by the city to make new use of street space, which have included a proposed pedestrian plaza program (http://planphilly.com/when-streets-give-way-plazas), as well as the installation of parklets (http://planphilly.com/philly-first-university-city-gets-parklet) in University City.
Assuming the test pans out, Buckley said the city would like to see a more involved public process to determine what the streetscaping project would look like. He estimated the project could cost between $10 million to $20 million — though no money has been set aside to pay for it.
Levy said CCD was committed to paying for the next round of engineering studies but said it could take about two years before Philadelphians could see anything on the ground.
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