Large portions of East Gravers Lane have potholes, and much of the roadway suffers from massive erosion along its curbs. Neighbors hope a resurfacing project can address the persistent problems. (Photo by Celeste Hardester)

by Brendan Sample

For several years, residents of East Gravers Lane have taken notice of the poor condition of their street in an attempt to have it fixed. Due mostly to the heavy traffic of the SEPTA “L” bus, the road has suffered from big and small cracks along the side and plenty of uneven surfaces.

Thankfully (or frustratingly, depending on your point of view), the City of Philadelphia is currently planning to have resurfacing work on E. Gravers finished by May.

Though the planned construction will certainly help the road to a certain degree, the question of whether or not it will be enough remains. Where some residents will be happy just to know that the street will be getting some kind of help, others remain skeptical that the resurfacing will only be a temporary fix that won’t truly fix East Gravers.

“While some people have noted that the road may need more fundamental work than simply resurfacing, that is all that has been budgeted at this time,” said Celeste Hardester, development review facilitator for the Chestnut Hill Community Association. “This will no doubt bring improvements, at least for people who use the road.”

Although there have been a number of environmental factors that contributed to the deterioration of East Gravers over recent years, the most consistent one has been the SEPTA “L” bus going back forth on the road. In addition to the street not having ample room to support a full-sized bus, many neighbors have also complained that the buses driving by cause their houses to shake.

“The street was built long before the “L” bus was even thought of and is not designed for that load (33,000 lbs. fully loaded),” said Donald Patterson, an East Gravers resident.

Because of the narrow width of the street, large vehicles like buses are often forced up onto the curb. This has led to parts of the curb disintegrating to the point where water flows up onto some of the properties.

With the street having gone through so many notable problems in recent years, one might think that the city would help to make necessary repairs. Unfortunately, however, that hasn’t quite been the case.

Instead of doing the necessary restructuring work that a road of this condition would require, the Streets Department has limited its work to resurfacing and pothole repair. While these fixes have helped to a certain degree, they have ultimately proved to be little more than bandages on what has proved to be a large wound.

In fact, the Streets Department’s lack of attention to East Gravers may have even been a factor in its deterioration. At one point, work on the road was delayed by no less than two years due to conflicting Philadelphia Water Department and Philadelphia Gas Works projects. Although they had their reasons, the delays haven’t exactly inspired much faith in these departments.

“As taxpayers, we like to know that one department knows what the other is doing so that work done by one department is not undone by another, but the perception to the public can be one of ongoing neglect,” said Hardester.

The consistent delays and lack of real positive change to the street has certainly led to a skeptical outlook when it comes to the future of East Gravers.

“Given our history, I’m having a hard time believing the city will do a quality rebuild of our street,” Patterson said.

Though it’s certainly taken a long time for work on this work to materialize, the same can’t be said for other street work scheduled in the relatively near future. The Streets Department has a number of projects planned in Chestnut Hill for 2018, the largest of which is a repaving of E. Bells Mill Rd that will be federally funded with upgrades to every disability ramp in the neighborhood.

With plans for roadwork already set through next year, it seems unlikely that anything more than resurfacing will get done on East Gravers, but that shouldn’t rule out the street ever getting fixed. Not only does the Streets Department have a lot planned for next year, but regular communication between it and the CHCA that’s been developing since 2011 could ensure that they’ll be more open to community input.

Despite the issues that have already arisen, there remains reason to hope, at the very least, that the long-afflicted road will eventually get the fixes it needs.

“My experience with the Streets Department has been very positive; they are professional, interested, responsive and appreciate things begin brought to their attention,” Hardester said. “While I wish that we had gone into more detail two years ago about expressing our concerns regarding East Gravers Lane, I do not know if that would have resulted in 2017 in the kind of work we think might be in order.”

Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com

...