Willard Elementary announced as one of city’s slow zone award recipients

The Neighborhood Slow Zone Program is a new program that supports the city’s Vision Zero goal introduced by the mayor in October 2016 to eliminate traffic fatalities.

Early last week, Kensington’s Frances E. Willard Elementary School was announced one of two winners of the city’s slow zone award, which will fund traffic-calming proposals under the Vision Zero Neighborhood Slow Zone Program from Somerset Street to the south, Clearfield Street to the north, Frankford Avenue to the east and Kensington Avenue from the west.

The Neighborhood Slow Zone Program is a new program that supports the City’s Vision Zero goal introduced by the mayor in October 2016 to eliminate traffic fatalities. Responding to Philadelphia residents’ common concerns about speeding on their neighborhood streets, the program expands residents’ traffic-calming options from single-block solutions to entire zones of residential streets. The Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability who administers the program in partnership with the Department of Streets received completed Neighborhood Slow Zone applications from 28 communities. Complete applications were evaluated and objectively ranked in a need basis.

“It is an awesome opportunity,” said Willard’s principal, Diana Garcia. “I’m so excited. This is something that’s going to help this neighborhood be better. It’s going to protect our kids.”

Garcia submitted the proposal to the city on behalf of the school. Four public meetings are expected to be held for the city to discuss specifics of the slow zone, such as which exact traffic-calming measures should be taken. However, Garcia said that in her opinion, she’d like to see speed bumps added around the perimeter of the school as well as an increased number of stop signs, more crossing guards and a school zone speed limit reduction to 20 mph when school is in session.

“Our city and our residents deserve safer streets,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a press release. “Managing speeds to save lives is a cornerstone of Vision Zero — whether that be on large streets or residential ones. The Neighborhood Slow Zone Program will install proven countermeasures to manage speeds in the Fairhill neighborhood and neighborhood around Willard Elementary, making the neighborhood streets safer for people walking.”

The first public meeting regarding the slow zone, according to Garcia, will be held Thursday, March 14, at 3:30 p.m. at Willard Elementary’s auditorium.

The Neighborhood Slow Zone Program is made possible by Automated Red Light Enforcement funding, which is distributed by the state Department of Transportation. In 2018, the city was awarded funding to support the design and construction of two Neighborhood Slow Zones. The total ARLE funding award was $1 million, which includes design and construction costs associated with two Neighborhood Slow Zones. Each Slow Zone will have a construction budget up to $450,000. Neighborhood Slow Zone projects will be completed by September 2021.

The other slow zone award went to nearby Fairhill, serving Glenwood Avenue to the north, Allegheny Avenue to the south, North 2nd Street to the east and North 5th Street to the west.

“We look forward to meeting the neighbors of Fairhill and around Willard Elementary School at the table, and to work hand-in-hand with neighbors to design Slow Zones that meet their needs,” said Michael A. Carroll, deputy managing director for the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability.