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Are We In Jersey? Possible Roundabout Coming to Busy Riverwards Intersection

  The intersection of Frankford and Trenton avenues and York Street is typically busy, as hundreds of cars merge daily into what Spirit News defines as the meeting point of Fishtown, Olde Richmond and East Kensington.

  Now, the spot could be the site for the city’s second roundabout, a type of intersection typically seen in New Jersey and perhaps more commonly in the United Kingdom.

  Richard Montanez, deputy commissioner for Transportation in the city’s Streets Department, said the department has spent $1 million toward a study into the feasibility of the roundabout. The only other roundabout in Philadelphia is in Northwest Philadelphia, east of Manayunk, he added.

Here is a computer rendering of what a roundabout might look like at the intersection./Courtesy Randy LoBasso

Here is a computer rendering of what a roundabout might look like at the intersection./Courtesy Randy LoBasso

  Montanez said the area could prove sufficient for it because of the angles that cars enter off Frankford, Trenton and York, along with the size of the intersection itself.

During the past two to three years, the Streets Department has looked at about 20 possible intersections citywide to possibly feature a roundabout, he added. Some weren’t receptive, but members from the Olde Richmond Civic Association and East Kensington Neighbors Association were.

  “We’ve gone to some communities and they said, ‘We don’t want any of those Jersey circles here,’” Montanez said. “But we didn’t get that here.”

  Don Gould, president of the Olde Richmond Civic Association (ORCA), said East Kensington Neighbors Association (EKNA) has taken the lead in examining the possibility of a roundabout.

  Nic Esposito, EKNA’s president, said some sort of intervention is needed at the intersection.

  “Something needed to happen there, it’s just crazy,” he said. “I have a son and with a stroller it’s hard to just cross the street.”

  Esposito said EKNA sent a letter of support for intervention at the intersection to the city’s Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems. He understands the perks of a roundabout, including that it slows down traffic.

  “I must have driven through a hundred roundabouts in France,” Esposito said about a recent vacation. “It definitely slows down traffic.”

  Montanez said the proposal is still in the beginning stages and that much more community collaboration and discussion still needs to occur. Another one of those interested community members is Randy LoBasso, who serves as the communications manager of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

  LoBasso lives near Letterly and Trenton streets and said he has seen several crashes at or near the intersection.

  “The main issue should be slowing down traffic,” LoBasso said about the roundabout’s possible impact. “If you hit someone at 20 miles per hour, the likelihood of killing someone is much lower than at 40 miles per hour.”

  According to a study done by the Department for Transport in London, the risk of a pedestrian dying because of a car collision drops from about 50 percent at 40 miles per hour to less than 5 percent at 20 mph.

  LoBasso understands the process will take time, but is glad the city is considering the roundabout and wants the project to be constructed efficiently if it proceeds. “The roundabout would have to be pretty big because it’s a pretty big intersection,” he said. “You don’t want to have the room for a car five cars back to cut ahead [in or near the roundabout] … but you can’t always trust a Philly driver.”

  It’s difficult to determine when a ultimate decision would be made about the roundabout, Montanez said, but he wants engineers from the Streets Department to have a rough estimate on how a roundabout would impact utilities in the area, in terms of both cost and infrastructure. By September, he hopes to hold a community meeting with all interested stakeholders.

  LoBasso thinks the long-term impact in safety makes the idea favorable. “From my point of view, living right there, I see it every day of my life… so I just think it’s a good idea,” LoBasso said.

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