Pedestrian fatality prompts East Falls Community Council to call emergency meeting

Members of the East Falls Community Council have called an emergency meeting for this Sunday, in response to Tuesday night’s fatal accident along Henry Avenue.

Alonzo Lewis, 77, of Chadds Ford was struck and killed by a car while trying to cross the intersection of Henry Avenue and School House Lane near Philadelphia University at 6:40 p.m. The vehicle that struck Lewis, was turning left onto Henry Avenue from School House Lane at the time of the accident. Police say speed was not a factor in the accident, the driver stopped and no charges were initially filed.

But that’s just one of several traffic accidents reported in the area over the past few months. Last week, a 21-year-old man from Conshohocken was killed after colliding head on with another car along Henry Avenue. Before that, speeding motorists crashed into trees, front lawns and other cars along residential streets.

Now, neighbors say they’ve had enough.

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The danger zones 

“I was not surprised and I was angry,” said Meg Greenfield, First Vice President of the East Falls Community Council and longtime East Falls resident, of the news. “We have been trying for six or seven years to get the city’s attention and we get nothing.”

Greenfield is a member of the East Falls Traffic Committee which started in 2005. The group identifies and monitors problematic intersections and roadways in the area, and has reached out to city officials and agencies to assist with accident prevention.

The committee has targeted the intersection of Henry Ave. and School House Lane, the location of last night’s accident, as one of the longtime problem spots.

“It is a very dangerous intersection because you have students crossing to get to dorms and classes, you have a bus stop, you have people in a rush to get where they’re going and it’s a through street,” Greenfield said.

Ideas and solutions 

So, what’s the solution? Greenfield says that’s a no brainer.

“Change the traffic signals on Henry Avenue,” she said. “Give pedestrians not a five second start, which is the way it is now, but let them have the time to cross the street without anyone legally having the chance to make that turn.”

Greenfield says she already pitched this idea to the Streets Department but officials were concerned about slowing traffic patterns down in an already-congested area. The Streets Department declined to comment on this story. 

“I hear what they are saying when they say they want to keep traffic moving,” Greenfield explained. “but is this the price we have to pay? Kill a few people so traffic can keep moving? I don’t think it’s right.”

Other traffic committee ideas include putting a speed table at the intersection and creating a traffic system similar to the one along El Camino Real in California.

“The critical thing they have is the ability for pedestrians to hit a button and get traffic stopped from the direction where they would be walking through.”

Greenfield says she hopes the upcoming meeting will provide concrete proposals for traffic solutions and if certain traffic calming measures can’t be put in place, she hopes officials will be prepared to give her specific reasons why those won’t work. 

The public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the East Falls Presbyterian Church at Midvale Avenue and Warden Drive. Greenfield says the group has invited Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., Mayor Michael Nutter, Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson and 39th Police District Captain Verdell Johnson. 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of the story noted that the East Falls Traffic Committee called Sunday’s emergency meeting. The meeting was actually called by the East Falls Community Council, which has been corrected in the story. Also, Meg Greenfield is the First VP of the EFCC, not the head of the EFTC. 

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