Thirty blocks of Walnut Street, including the area around Penn’s campus, will be under construction throughout September.
The repaving project, which stretches from 33rd Street to 63rd Street/Cobbs Creek Parkway, is run by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The project began Sept. 12, and the street remained closed overnight through Sept. 15. The paving portion of the project will cause further closures later in the month, beginning with paving on Sept. 26.
House managers emailed residents of The Radian and Gutmann College House to advise them that they would hear “noise related to the milling machine, of grinding the asphalt and construction vehicles traveling on Walnut Street” from Sept. 12 to Sept. 15.
The Division of Public Safety also sent out memos about the construction to some tenants of Penn-owned buildings. Additionally, DPS also informs Penn community members via Traffic Advisories, which are opt-in communications about traffic issues in the Penn area, adding that Penn affiliates can register for the DPS Traffic Advisory email.
The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke to some Penn community members who expressed confusion and frustration about the construction.
“I knew nothing about [the construction] before it started,” College junior Aspen van der Hoeven told the DP.
“The road was wrecked,” a Penn graduate student said.
The student, who uses a wheelchair, said the construction and the lack of communication surrounding it made it difficult for her to travel across the street.
“If I didn’t have someone helping me through getting from one sidewalk to the other, I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” she said. “When I was crossing the road, my wheelchair broke [because of the rough pavement]. That is the kind of thing that is prone to happen when you have those unsafe conditions.”
The construction has also been bothersome for college house residents, both during the day and in the overnight hours.
“When I go down and I’m sitting in the study spaces, I hear it, and I hear it as soon as I leave the building, especially on the street side and not the campus side,” van der Hoeven said.
Van der Hoeven added that she would have appreciated more of a heads up from the university.
“I understand that it’s construction and needs to happen, but it affects everybody who lives in Gutmann,” she said.
The Penn graduate student agreed that more notice would have been appreciated.
"Penn could have sent a memo to everyone saying the roads are getting fixed,” she said.
A release from the City of Philadelphia on Sept. 11 details the outline of the project, including that Walnut Street will be repaved and repainted, and a new bike lane will be created throughout the fall. According to the release, Walnut Street is currently labeled as a “Vision Zero High Injury Network corridor,” which means that there is a “higher rate of severe traffic crashes than the average Philadelphia street.”
According to Matt Cassidy, the communications manager for the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability, the project will calm traffic and increase pedestrian safety.
Cassidy told the DP that this area has had 331 crashes from 2018-2022, with 214 injured, 15 seriously injured, and 3 killed.
“Nearly 45% of those total crashes were due to aggressive driving,” Cassidy wrote.
The Walnut Street project is based on a similar project that took place on Chestnut Street in 2017. The Chestnut Street project reduced injuries by 40% and significantly reduced the number of crashes.
The repaving portion of the Walnut Street project is expected to begin on or around Sept. 26 and continue through Sept. 29.