Major traffic changes coming to Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's five lanes of speeding cars and bumpy roads heading east to west in South Philadelphia.

"My concerns are the traffic, congestion, the safety of the pedestrians," said Janet Anastasi, who owns Anastasi's Seafood on 9th Street and Washington Avenue.

Her concerns are an example of a few of the reasons the city is making major changes to Washington Avenue.

"It's had transportation chaos for a number of years for a lot of different reasons," said Michael Carroll, the deputy managing director of Philadelphia's Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability.

The plan is to shrink the road from five lanes to three from 4th Street to Grays Ferry, except for a few blocks around Broad Street, and also put in two bike lanes.

"Making Washington Ave., I think, an improved environment for people in those neighborhoods both businesses and residents," said Lily Reynolds, the deputy director of the Office of Complete Streets.

Changes to the bike lanes include making them "protected," with the parking row separating cyclists from the traffic. Other examples of that in the city are on JFK Blvd and Market Street.

"We want to make sure it's both safe and comfortable for people and all abilities to cycle on Washington," said Caroll.

From 2012 to 2018 there were 254 crashes on Washington Avenue, many involving pedestrians and some fatal, like one where a mom was killed five years ago. The city says cutting down lanes and adding more space for bikers and walkers should reduce accidents.

Some business owners, however, who are already struggling from COVID-19, think the construction will do more harm than good.

"You know what the best thing to do? Leave it alone," said Wally Giordano, who's a co-owner of Giordano & Giordano Fruit and Produce. "It won't be good to have just one lane going one way and one lane going the other way, it's going to be chaos out here."

The city plans to begin construction next summer.
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