During last night’s meeting of Borough Council there was a presentation from a traffic engineer that proposed reducing Fayette Street from four lanes to two lanes, with a left turning lane, from 3rd Avenue up to 12th Avenue. The sides of the street could include parking, a bike lane, etc. Mayor Bob Frost suggested that if the plan were to move forward that the school zone between 2nd Avenue and 3rd Avenue should be included. The lanes and intersections just off the bridge, Elm Street and 1st Avenue, wouldn’t be altered as they handle most of the traffic coming off the bridge.
Changing from four lanes to two lanes with a turning lane is referred to as “road diet.” The Federal Highway Administration explains it as follows:
A roadway reconfiguration known as a Road Diet offers several high-value improvements at a low cost when applied to traditional four-lane undivided highways. In addition to low cost, the primary benefits of a Road Diet include enhanced safety, mobility and access for all road users and a “complete streets” environment to accommodate a variety of transportation modes.
A classic Road Diet typically involves converting an existing four-lane, undivided roadway segment to a three-lane segment consisting of two through lanes and a center, two-way left-turn lane.
Members of Borough Council seemed interested in this concept as a way to calm traffic and discourage pass through traffic in the Borough. For example, if a commuter is coming from Whitemarsh, this new configuration might encourage him or her to access 76 by entering 476 off Chemical Road instead of driving down Fayette Street to the bridge.
One interesting thing that came up are the opposing views of PennDOT and the municipality. Based on the discussion last night (note that no one from PennDOT was in attendance), PennDOT’s goal, as described by the traffic engineer, is to create conditions to move vehicles as quickly and effectively as possible. In this case, the municipality wants to slow traffic and create a safer environment.
The traffic engineer was asked to create a proposal to study the cost of implementing this concept. PennDOT would have to approve of any change as its a state road. Whitemarsh and Plymouth Townships would also need to be on board because Fayette Street/Butler Avenue beyond 12th fall into those townships.