Nick Cinciruk may be inheriting a lot of problems, but one of them isn’t a shortage of work. As the city’s new district traffic engineer for the Northeast, Cinciruk already has a desk full of complaints from citizens who insist that local roads aren’t up to snuff.
On Feb. 26, folks in Holme Circle gave Cinciruk a few more complaints during the monthly meeting of the Holme Circle Civic Association. Most of the dialogue concerned Holme Avenue and Welsh Road, two of the area’s busiest thoroughfares. If you ask neighbors, they’ll tell you that those streets are also two of the most dangerous. Tens of thousands of motorists use them each day.
“It’s like a drag strip,” one woman said of Welsh Road. “This is a nonstop issue between Tolbut (Street) and the (Holme) Circle.”
In addition to speeding, neighbors complained of drunken driving, vehicle crashes and at least one roadway fatality. Cinciruk, who grew up and still lives in the neighborhood, said he knows first-hand of the widespread disregard for the speed limit among Holme Avenue motorists.
“It’s signed adequately at thirty miles per hour and people don’t respect that,” the engineer said.
On a recent day, he sat alongside the four-lane, winding, parkway-style avenue with a radar gun. He clocked some cars at 60 to 70 mph, while the “average” speed was about 45. When first built, Holme Avenue was posted for 40 mph and was designed to accommodate that speed safely. However, increasing traffic volume and property development in the area — both residential and commercial — prompted a speed limit reduction.
Holme Avenue speeding has been a regular topic of discussion at monthly civic association meetings for years. Neighbors have asked for more police patrols. Cinciruk said that the city’s plan is to install speed sensor trailers that will post passing vehicles’ speeds on a digital display.
“History tells us when you place them out there, people slow down at those locations,” Cinciruk said.
History also shows a lot of accidents on Holme Avenue, which is two miles long and connects Roosevelt Boulevard with Academy Road. In 2012, there were 72 accidents reported there, with half of those occurring between the 2900 and 3100 blocks. About 12 percent of accidents that year involved a moving vehicle striking a parked one.
Neighbors describe a similar situation on Welsh Road. According to one woman, the 2800 block of Welsh has been the scene of multiple hit-and-runs, including some in the “middle of the school day.” One neighbor, she said, had both of his cars smashed in separate incidents. The other driver fled the scene both times.
Welsh Road is two lanes wide and about three-quarters of a mile long between Holme Circle and Willits Road. It is mostly residential with the Pollock Elementary School and McArdle Playground at the southern end. Years ago, a SEPTA bus struck and killed a neighborhood boy there. Paul Ragan, an area resident who works for City Councilman Bobby Henon, noted that there’s only one stop light at Tolbut Street and no stop signs. He thinks there should be another stop sign installed.
In the past, neighbors have asked about installing speed bumps on Welsh, but that’s not possible, according to Cinciruk. The city installed them years ago on Bluegrass Road as a pilot program, but found that they don’t really slow traffic. Conversely, they hinder police and firefighters and cause a lot of extra noise for nearby residents.
Cinciruk vowed to take a closer look at Welsh Road.
“I’m going to revisit Welsh Road to see where we can make it safer,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is making slow progress on plans to reconstruct Pennypack Circle, according to Cinciruk. That’s the intersection of Roosevelt Boulevard and Holme Avenue in front of Nazareth Hospital. The plan is to convert the circle into a “T” intersection, in hope that motorists will be able to navigate it in one cycle of the traffic light, rather than two or three cycles.
The circle will remain open to traffic during construction because a new overpass will be built between the two existing overpasses. Under the new configuration, the Boulevard will still have six “express” lanes (three in each direction), as well as six local lanes at street level. The project remains in the design phase. ••