Officials said on Tuesday that after nearly 15 months of closure during the coronavirus pandemic, Philadelphia will reopen Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue for vehicle traffic early next month.
The nearly 4-mile road will reopen on Wednesday, August 4 at 5 pm, and will maintain the revised schedule of weekend closures, at least until the spring of 2022, starting on Saturday, August 7.
The reopening was carried out after extensive reconstruction and restoration of the road, including improved drainage, signs and stripes. The lane reconfiguration is designed to calm traffic and reduce speeding along the way, which runs through West Fairmount Park between the Schuylkill River and I-76, from Eakins Oval to Falls Bridge.
MLK Drive closed in May last year to promote entertainment and social distancing during the pandemic. On some days, as many as 5,000 cyclists, walkers, joggers, runners, and others who use the car-free zone used the road.
In recent years, the city has tried to close on Saturday and Sunday from 6 am to 5 pm on weekends and reopen at night. Officials said on Tuesday that this mode of closure will continue until October, and then the city will try other possible options, including extending weekend closures from 6 am to 8 pm. The city will also explore extending full closures for holidays, such as Thanksgiving, and will measure how these changes affect traffic patterns.
“This is our goal to maximize our footprint here through the fresh patterns we see in the paving and stripes,” said Mike Carroll, the city’s deputy general manager of transportation. “This includes a $1.4 million project to completely rebuild, restore, and widen recreational trails, including upgrading drainage, signage, ADA ramps, and line stripes. This was proposed before the pandemic and will provide pedestrians, Joggers and walkers provide a safer experience. Regardless of the traffic on the drive, cyclists can continue to enjoy the riverbank.”
Martin Luther King Drive is included in Philadelphia’s high-injury network, which means that the road has an excessively high proportion of fatalities and car accidents.
“This is always a red flag for us,” Carroll said.
However, as traffic congestion on the Schuylkill Highway and other parallel roads along the river quickly recovered, city officials deemed it necessary to reopen MLK Drive and expected improved transportation and entertainment to make it a safer place.
Before the pandemic, MLK Drive had an average of 19,000-20,000 vehicles per day.
Carol said: “There is an opportunity to do more, so that more people can use it, and at the same time restore some of its expected functions.” “This is the feeling we achieved through this method. Of course we want to hear from the public. Because they are used to the new model and understand their ideas. We will do our best to absorb this feedback and move forward.”