Study Will Look at Safety and Development Potential for Route 291 Corridor

Delaware County Vice Chairman Elaine Shaeffer (at podium) speaks to reporters Tuesday about safety concerns for Route 291 behind her. With Shaeffer are Barry Seymour and Christine Reuther.
Delaware County Vice Chairman Elaine Shaeffer (at podium) speaks to reporters Tuesday about safety concerns for Route 291. With Shaeffer are Barry Seymour, executive director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and County Council member Christine Reuther.

A study is underway to look at how to make Route 291 in Delaware County safer and more user-friendly for the communities it passes through.

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and members of Delaware County Council announced Tuesday afternoon that a $150,000 road safety study will be conducted on Route 291.

The announcement was made, appropriately, at a 1 p.m. press conference at the Boeing Helicopters Credit Union property in Ridley Park off Route 291.

“It’s pretty well traveled and you can witness that during this press conference with all of the traffic that is coming by this entire time,” commented Delaware County Council Vice Chairman Elaine Paul Schaeffer.

Route 291, also known as the Industrial Highway, passes through residential, commercial, and industrial areas, running near I-95, Rt. 322, the Commodore Barry Bridge, the Philadelphia International Airport, and the Blue Route.

It also provides access to Harrah’s Casino and Subaru Park.

There have been hundreds of accidents involving motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists along the wide, straight, intimidating roadway. Traffic generally speeds along, with little to no shoulders, no middle turn lane in some areas, and no sidewalks for much of the route.

Between 2015 and 2019, Rt. 291 saw 355 accidents, 10 of them fatal. Eight involved pedestrians and three involved cyclists.

The road safety study will look at the route from Irving Street in Chester City to Darby Creek in Ridley Township.

The study will be paid for with a Transportation and Community Development Initiative (TCDI) grant using federal transportation funding that supports planning for local development and redevelopment efforts.

Residents affected

The road acts as a barrier, cutting communities in half, making it difficult for people who live in the area to travel to the waterfront for recreation or for job opportunities. About 38% of the residents do not have access or do not own a car.  Instead, they depend on walking, biking, or public transportation.

The area around the Rt. 291 corridor has a higher than average rate of citizens who are low income, have a disability, or are in a racial minority.

 “These are significant concerns,” Shaeffer said.

A collaborative effort

Despite the downsides, there is great potential to develop the Rt. 291 corridor to improve local communities and the region.  

Looking at that potential are representatives from Delaware County, Ridley, Eddystone, Chester, the DVRPC, the Riverfront Alliance, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and the East Coast Greenway.

Economic development

Besides safety issues, the study will also look at the potential economic development of the corridor utilizing existing regional destinations already in the area, Shaeffer said.

It will also study the corridor’s impact on the East Coast Greenway under development, a 3,000-mile trail passing through the region that connects Maine to Key West, Florida.

Possible solutions

Solutions to the Rt. 291 safety issues could include lane reductions, or reducing the width of the roadway, traffic calming, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

The study will look at ways to connect across the roadway, creating and giving access to walking and biking trails so people don’t perceive the 291 corridor as just a place for vehicles, said County Council member Christine Reuther.

Results from the study could also lead the DVRPC to pursue other grants for economic development in the 291 corridor area, Reuther said.

Shaeffer pointed to successful transformations of communities in other areas where multi-use trails were introduced.

 “These are revitalizations of communities that started with the long-distance multi-use trail and that can and will happen here,” she said.

A timeline

The study must be completed by the end of 2024, but the hope is to finish it sooner. That would be followed by engineering studies and then construction.

“We’re talking years, not months,” Shaeffer cautioned.

One deadline that may make a difference is 2026 when the World Cup comes to the region.

Subaru Park has been earmarked as a major practice facility during the World Cup.

“Obviously, finding ways to make improvements all the way down through Chester is hugely important and I think any work we can get done and anything we can do to accelerate that 2026 event is going to be critical,” Shaeffer said.

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