The City initially closed MLK Drive to vehicles from East Falls Bridge to Eakins Oval on March 20, 2020
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is set to reopen to vehicular traffic on August 4th at 5 p.m., according to a press release published by the Philadelphia Department of Streets and the Office of the Mayor.
The City initially closed MLK Drive to vehicles from East Falls Bridge to Eakins Oval on March 20, 2020, to support social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, as stated in another press release published by the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability.
While the City encouraged residents to stay indoors, the closure of MLK drive created an additional 4.3 miles of space for park and trail use.
After consultation with the City Council and the successful completion of various infrastructure projects, closing the drive allowed for improvements to recreational trails, paving and upgrades to lighting, according to Deputy Managing Director for Transportation, Mike Carroll.
“This includes a $1.4 million dollar project to completely reconstruct, rehabilitate and widen the recreational trail, including upgrades to drainage, signage, ADA ramps and line striping, which was proposed before the pandemic and will provide a far safer experience for walkers, joggers and cyclists to continue enjoying the riverbank regardless of traffic on the Drive,” said Carroll.
As a part of these modifications, the drive has been reconfigured from two lanes to one lane of traffic in each direction, widening the bike lanes. However, the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia put out a statement that the reconfiguartion “did not result in adding new space for bicyclists, pedestrians and runners in the near term” and “MLK Jr. Drive will still be a high stress roadway when cars use it, therefore, we don’t recommend that bicyclists or pedestrians use the shoulders when the roadway is open to cars.”
The project was funded by PA DCNR, DVRPC’s Regional Trails Program, PA DCED and the City of Philadelphia.
The City will continue to close the Drive for recreational use on weekends and City holidays starting Saturday August 7th at 6 a.m. through the end of October and is committed to the training and orientation of partner agencies to support the extension of the closure to Spring 2022.
“We thank the federal and city governments for the improvements along MLK Drive for pedestrians, bikers, and vehicles,” said Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. “The improvements will make it safer for all of the above modes of transportation.”