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Roosevelt Boulevard — A Death Trap

July 24, 2013

Too many tragic deaths have to occur and too many years have to pass before simple changes are made to improve safety on the Roosevelt Boulevard and to protect citizens of the Philadelphia and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Without significant changes, Roosevelt Boulevard will remain a death trap for pedestrians.

In February 2000, a 13-year-old child was struck by a car as he was attempting to cross 12 lanes of high volume, high speed traffic, including six lanes which constitute an expressway, of the Roosevelt Boulevard in an unsignalized crosswalk designated by pavement markings located near St. Vincent Street in Philadelphia. He was struck by a car and suffered traumatic injuries, including multiple fractures’ head injuries and permanent brain damage. Four years later, on Easter Sunday, in April 2004, another 13- year-old child was also attempting to cross Roosevelt Boulevard in a nearby unsignalized crosswalk designated by pavement markings located near Princeton Avenue in Philadelphia. She was struck by a car and suffered multiple traumatic injuries, resulting in her death.

Following those accidents, and in part, due to the personal injury lawsuits brought on behalf of the minor children, City Controller Alan Butkowitz wrote an urgent letter to the Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation calling for immediate safety improvements on Roosevelt Boulevard, including the elimination of unsignalized crossings.

In 2007, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s US 1 — Roosevelt Boulevard Corridor Study reached similar conclusions. The report strongly recommended major changes along the Boulevard, including removal of certain unsignalized pedestrian crossings.

Finally, in 2012, 12 years after a child suffered brain damage and eight years after another child was killed, the unsignalized crossings near St. Vincent Street and Princeton Avenue were eliminated and a new combined crossing was installed with a traffic signal, warning signs and pavement markings near Friendship Street (between St. Vincent Street and Princeton Avenue).

The most recent auto accidents over this past week serve as a tragic and painful reminder that Roosevelt Boulevard remains a dangerous roadway and more safety improvements are necessary to protect the children and families of Philadelphia, especially those children and families that live near the Boulevard.

Three more children died last week when they were attempting to cross Roosevelt Boulevard with their mother, Samara Banks, near North Second Street. The crossing was designated by cement sidewalks across the medians separating the inner and outer drives of Roosevelt Boulevard. These sidewalks serve as an invitation for pedestrians to cross at that location. In previous cases related to Roosevelt Boulevard accidents, attorneys for Feldman Shepherd found a document during discovery that described this type of crossing as an “invitation to death.” The presence of the sidewalks across the medians provide to pedestrians such as Ms. Banks and her family, an assurance that it is a safe place to cross. Crossing the Boulevard at this location near North Second Street, however, is not safe. The crossing was not controlled by a traffic signal, there were no pavement markings on the roadway, and there were no warning signs to alert motorists of the crossing.

This crossing and the cement sidewalks across the Boulevard medians should have been removed long before July, 2013. Budgetary constraints are not an excuse for the inaction of the government at this location — millions of dollars are not needed to break up the concrete, plant some grass, and install a no crossing sign at this location. If a study was performed that indicated a crossing was indicated or warranted at this location, then the crossing should have been made safe by the installation of a traffic signal, pavement markings, and warning signs for motorists.

These simple changes can and must be made to improve safety on Roosevelt Boulevard and to protect the citizens of Philadelphia and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Without these changes, the Boulevard will remain a death trap for pedestrians. The city and state cannot and must not wait for another tragic accident to occur.

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