Roosevelt Boulevard (official name, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Boulevard), often referred to simply as “the Boulevard,”is a major traffic artery through North and Northeast Philadelphia. The road begins at the Schuylkill Expressway in Fairmount Park, running as a freeway also known as the Roosevelt Boulevard Extension or the Roosevelt Expressway through North Philadelphia, and then transitioning into a twelve-lane divided highway that forms the spine of Northeast Philadelphia to its end at the city line.

Historically, Roosevelt Boulevard is a part of the Lincoln Highway, the first road across America, which ran for 3,389 miles (5,454 km) from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park on the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco, California.

Today, Roosevelt Boulevard is designated as US 1 (north of the Roosevelt Expressway), US 13 (between Hunting Park Avenue and Robbins Street), and Pennsylvania Route 63 (between Red Lion and Woodhaven Roads).

The road is notorious for two intersections which have been designated the second and third most dangerous intersections in the country, at Red Lion Road and Grant Avenue respectively. The dangerous reputation of the road led to installation of the first red light cameras in Philadelphia in 2004. The road has been the scene of numerous pedestrian casualties and studies are underway to allow pedestrian traffic to be separated from vehicular traffic.

Police said two men are being charged over a crash that killed a mother and her three young sons on a 12-lane highway plagued by pedestrian deaths.  Samara Banks often called a cab to take her and her four little boys home from family visits on the other side of Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia, relatives said.  But on Tuesday night, she thought temperatures had cooled down enough to walk the mile back home from her aunt’s house.

Banks, 28, and her three youngest sons were killed as they crossed the football field wide Roosevelt Boulevard at a point where grassy medians divide the traffic lanes, but there are no crosswalk or traffic light.  Her oldest, a 5-year-old, survived with bumps and bruises.

A police spokeswoman said Wednesday night that two men were being charged with four counts each of third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter.  A witness reported drag racing may have been involved, she said.  The two men also will face charges of recklessly endangering another person, aggravated assault, simple assault and aggravated assault by vehicle, police said.

Roosevelt Boulevard had the nation’s 2nd and 3rd most dangerous intersections in a 2001 insurance company study, which tallied 618 crashes at those two intersections alone in a two-year period.

The speed limit is 40 mph where Banks and her boys were killed, but drivers frequently go 10 or 20 miles above that to make — or run — a light, neighbors said Wednesday. Many residents of the lower-income area don’t have cars, and are left to traverse the boulevard on foot to get to schools, parks and stores.

Police could not immediately provide more recent data on fatal or non-fatal accidents on the road, but news reports detail a few of them.

Last August, 43-year-old Michael Romano died after pushing his 5-year-old son out of danger just before he was struck by a hit-and-run driver at 11 p.m. His death came just days after another man was killed in a 2 a.m. hit-and-run nearby.

And 36-year-old pedestrian Brenda Rodriguez was struck and killed in June 2009 after she and a friend picked up Chinese food. Witnesses said she was struck as two drivers were racing each other; both of them fled.

They died even after police installed red-light cameras to try to slow traffic.

“Every time I cross the boulevard, I see somebody running the light.  I think they don’t know there’s a camera there,” said Angel Mendoza, 32, who lives a block away.

The young man being questioned in Tuesday’s crash was driving a 2012 Audi, while the other car involved was a 1994 Honda, police said.  They said charges are pending.

Banks will be buried with her 7-month-old son in a cemetery plot just across the street from her former apartment, and her 23-month-old and 4-year-old will be buried together in an adjacent plot.

I would hope that the city of Philadelphia would now address this issue and provide a means of separating pedestrians from vehicular traffic.  There has been talk of installing a subway under the “Boulevard,” but it was only talked about and has, so far, not gone past that phase.  There was also talk of an elevated walkway, but that also has not gone anywhere.

I would hope that the reason for no action is not because the area in question is a very poor neighborhood, primarily made up of people who are Black or Hispanic.  The local police, lay the blame on the drivers who speed and run red lights through those two intersections.  But, you would think that after more than 600 accidents and numerous pedestrian fatalities that the situation would be addressed and the problem rectified.

Regardless of what happens, in the future, to fix the problem; unfortunately, it comes too late for this mother and her boys.

 

 

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