The City Planning Commission has revealed plans to make improvements to Lehigh Avenue from Aramingo Avenue to Kensington Avenue in Kensington. Of the three different preliminary concepts that have been made available online for residents to submit feedback, all three feature the reduction of a through lane in each direction and the addition of parking protected bike lanes on the north and south sides of the street.
“The street itself has been a subject for planning for at least 10 years,” said city planner David Fecteau.
Of the three proposals, the first, dubbed “Concept A,” is the “short-term solution,” which consists of merely paint on the streets and delineator posts to protect the bike lanes. While the planning commission has yet to procure cost estimates at this point, Fecteau said it would be the cheapest option of the bunch. The other two proposals are functionally the same as concept A, but are aesthetically different. Concept B moves the bike lane onto the sidewalk, while Concept C keeps it on the street. Concept B, unlike the other two, incorporates a landscaped median. Both Concepts B and C incorporate angled parking between Tulip Street and Aramingo Avenue, but only on the south side of the street.
Fecteau said the decision to remove a through lane in each direction was because of the increasingly residential aspect of the street.
“Because we’re seeing so much more residential development, traffic won’t move as quickly anyway,” he said. “If we’re going to have more people using the road, we might as well slow traffic down a little and accommodate people who choose not to drive.” The travel lanes will also be reduced in width.
If all goes as planned, Lehigh Avenue should be a safer street for pedestrians and cyclists. The street is difficult to cross as it currently stands, said Fecteau.
“It’s tough to get across,” he said. “Cars are making left-hand turns all the time, not paying attention to where people are walking.”
Lehigh Avenue was targeted for improvements because it was designated part of Philadelphia’s high injury network, which consists of the 12 percent of city streets that account for 50 percent of the traffic deaths.
But when will the project be completed? Fecteau wasn’t comfortable speculating.
The original time estimate to have the project completed was three to five years, “but that was before our budget took a hit because of COVID,” he said. For now, the timeline is uncertain.
On Wednesday, the city released a new budget hearings schedule to consider the revised 2021 budget proposal delivered by Mayor Jim Kenney to Council earlier in the month. All hearings will be held remotely using Microsoft Teams. The first budget hearing, which will focus on the city’s proposed Five-Year Financial and Strategic Plan, the Six-Year Capital Budget program, the Mayor’s Office, Community College of Philadelphia and several other funds, will take place on Monday, May 18, beginning at 9:30 a.m. A series of other meetings are scheduled through June that focus on specific parts of the budget. The one focused on planning and development is scheduled for June 1 at 2 p.m.