City Howl Help Desk: Finding a remedy for a naked street in Philadelphia

Four lanes, but only a centerline divider.
Four lanes, but only a centerline divider.
Posted: June 22, 2011

FOR MORE THAN 15 years, Jerry Hartley's been driving on Adams Avenue, a street that feeds into Roosevelt Boulevard in the lower Northeast. But for the last few, something's been off about this street he knows so well. Something . . .indecent.

"It's like a naked street," he said.

The busy street has a center line but is missing its individual lane markers, and so on both sides of Adams Avenue, two lanes become one big one. This might not be much of a problem if the lanes weren't designated for certain turns. But when Adams intersects with Castor Avenue, you can go left, right or straight. Back when the street was "decent," there were arrows telling drivers which lane to take - the left lane goes left or straight, the right lane only goes right. Now, the markers have disappeared, and all that's left to notify drivers of the rules is one sign.

This makes it difficult to navigate, Hartley said, especially the intersection. "People just blow through the right lane to go straight," he said, instead of waiting their turn in the left lane.

With the dangerous Roosevelt Boulevard just around the corner, Hartley was worried that this street, too, could become an accident magnet. So he twice reported it to the Streets Department, using its online form, in February and again in April. He never heard back except for a message asking him to specify exactly where the street was.

DRESSING THE STREET BACK UP: Line-striping, or painting the lane markers, is done as part of the paving process, Streets spokeswoman Keisha McCarty-Skelton told Help Desk. Paving season starts in March or April and continues until about November. The Traffic Division determines which streets to pave by considering a number of factors: amount of time since last repaving, state of the street and complaints. Major intersections get priority, McCarty-Skelton said.

The Streets Department did receive Hartley's complaint, and has added Adams to its list of streets to be paved. At the beginning of the paving season, the department has a large number of requests, so it takes some time to attend to all of them. McCarty-Skelton said the department should be able to repave and restripe the street within several weeks.

SO MANY CLEANUP PROGRAMS: In last week's Help Desk, we incorrectly reported that the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP) had issued a $75 ticket to Michael McFadden for overgrown weeds. The agency that actually issued the ticket was the Streets Department's Sideways and Walkways Education and Enforcement Program (SWEEP). We screwed up, but the mistake made us wonder: What's the difference between the two programs? They both call you out on high weeds, right? So why do both exist?

Here's what the city told us: CLIP and SWEEP do overlap when it comes to dealing with overgrown weeds, but differ in other areas.

SWEEP, under the sanitation division of the Streets Department, is concerned with sanitation violations on sidewalks and streets. SWEEP workers patrol the city to make sure you're not putting your garbage out too early or mixing recyclables with garbage. In the winter, SWEEP handles snow-clearing violations.

CLIP, under the Managing Director's Office, focuses more on property: It deals with messy vacant lots and "exterior property-management issues," said Deputy Managing Director Thomas Conway. Although CLIP works citywide, it concentrates in North and West Philadelphia due to the high number of vacant lots in those areas, and in Northeast Philadelphia, where there are often minor quality-of-life issues.

Because of their different mandates, the two programs have different work patterns: SWEEP officers patrol trash routes; CLIP inspectors respond to complaints and then inspect the rest of the block for delinquent-property issues.

SWEEP and CLIP also follow different philosophies when it comes to violations. SWEEP will not pick up after you. Instead, it tickets you and hopes the hole in your wallet reminds you not to mess up again (literally). CLIP gives you a chance to clean up, but then makes sure the job gets done itself if you don't, and bills you for the work.

-- Juliana Reyes

Have you had experience with either CLIP or SWEEP? Or any other city service? Let us know online at, email, @phillyhowl on Twitter or at 215-854-5855.

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