Chestnut Hill Local: New, improved sidewalks for Mt. Airy

A diagram shows proposed pedestrian safety improvements at the intersection of Germantown Avenue with East and West Durham streets.
A diagram shows proposed pedestrian safety improvements at the intersection of Germantown Avenue with East and West Durham streets.

Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2024 12:00 am

by Carla Robinson

Construction is likely to begin later this year on Mt. Airy’s long-awaited $3.5 million sidewalk improvement project, thanks to Congressman Dwight Evans’ Friday announcement that he had secured more than $13.3 million in federal funding for a series of  local projects, including $500,000 for the Northwest Philadelphia pedestrian safety initiative.

The funding is included in the appropriations bill passed by Congress last week, which President Biden signed into law on Saturday. The project is also being financed through state grants and city department funding. 

“This funding comes at the perfect time,” said Ken Weinstein, board chairman of the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District. “We need these pedestrian crossings to keep people safe, and the district needs to be competitive with other commercial corridors.”

Mt. Airy’s project, proposed many years ago by the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District, will enhance pedestrian safety with a number of streetscape improvements and enhanced pedestrian crossings at seven key intersections. It will also complete the pedestrian street lighting for the 6400 block of Germantown Avenue, which was left out of improvements done decades ago. 

This sidewalk improvement project will incorporate “daylighting” to improve visibility at intersections and reduce crossing times, benefiting particularly vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly. Additionally, sidewalk “bump-outs” and pedestrian-activated strobe flashing lights at corners will further enhance safety.

Mt. Airy’s 1.8-mile stretch of Germantown Avenue, which spans the corridor from Cresheim Valley Drive to Washington Lane, has long been challenging for pedestrians due to fast-moving traffic and infrequent crosswalks. 

The new crosswalks, along with improved bus stops along SEPTA’s Route 23, are expected to calm traffic and make the area safer and more commercially competitive with other business corridors.

Beyond the Mt. Airy streetscape improvements, the federal funding will support a diverse array of projects aimed at addressing Philadelphia’s most pressing needs, particularly in affordable housing. 

Congressman Evans underscored the critical need for affordable housing in Philadelphia, noting that nearly two-thirds of the allocated funding would support this cause. Projects such as the Abigail Pankey Apartments, Beacon of Hope Affordable Housing Workforce Development, and Beech Senior Apartments are just a few initiatives set to benefit from this financial windfall.

The funding will also support educational and environmental projects including the Philly Schools Tree Canopy project, aimed at improving air quality and health outcomes in neighborhoods with lower tree coverage. The Vaux Community Building Auditorium Renovation and the 52nd Street Streetscape Improvement project are additional beneficiaries, each designed to enhance community spaces and safety.

This round of funding is the third installment of Community Project Funding secured by Evans for the 3rd Congressional District, totaling more than $36 million in the last three years.