by Kevin Dicciani

The Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee said that the Philadelphia Streets Department will look into addressing dangerous driving conditions that have recently caused several accidents on West Bells Mill Road.

LUPZ member Larry McEwen said on Dec. 1 that the area in question is between Germantown Avenue and the bridge over the Wissahickon Creek. The most problematic section is where the road slopes downhill and curves around the corner. He said the location has been the scene of many accidents, most recently on Nov. 29 and 30.

McEwen said a letter from a nearby resident was sent to the Streets Department detailing  the dangers of the road. The Streets Department acknowledged the problem and expressed a willingness to find a solution, he said. It will pull crash reports and conduct a traffic calming and speed study, as well as possibly meet with LUPZ members on-site.

“It just seemed like the thing to do was to put this letter in the hands of people we knew at the Streets Department and see what we could get, and it sounds like there was a pretty quick response,” McEwen said.

Some of the suggestions put forth by the LUPZ were reducing the speed limit, putting up signage that warned drivers about the curve and roughening the surface to increase traction. While there is a need for speed control, McEwen said “it is probably not the place for speed bumps,” an opinion on which he said the Streets Department agreed.

David Wilton, a resident of West Bells Mill Road, said that accidents occur on the road about “once a month or more.” He said that drivers going both uphill and downhill around the curve have hit both his and neighbor’s fence multiple times. So many cars have hit the fence over the past 30 years, he said, that the bottom blocks have been pushed out of place.

Wilton said that drivers speeding downhill do not anticipate the severity of the curve, and then, when it is too late, they jam on the brakes, lose grip and spin out of control. Often times, he said, the cars go airborne, and when not all of their tires land on the road at the same time and they brake, they instead semi-brake and then careen off the road. Another contributing factor is that the road is very slippery when wet, he said.

“Problem number one is speeding,” Wilton said. “Problem number two is there is no posting on the curve, and problem number three is that the road surface near the curve gets in the way of people braking, so, just before reaching the curve, the grade steepens, and since they’re already going too fast, they start to go faster.”

As for what he personally believes should be done to mitigate the conditions, Wilton said the speed limit should be reduced to 25 mph, a sign put in place that warns drivers of the curve and the surface roughened to improve the grip of the road’s surface.

LUPZ member Ned Mitinger said the recommendations from Wilton and members of the LUPZ seem “very plausible.”

“We’re not looking for a five-year plan here,” Mitinger said. “We’re looking for something to be done as soon as possible, even if it’s piecemeal.”

Kevin Dicciani can be reached at 215-248-8819 or kevin@chestnuthilllocal.com.

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