Dangerous roads a big concern in Holme Circle

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. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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