Speed on Kelly Drive, Get a Red Light

New system hopes to cut down speeding one of Philly's main roads

If you speed along Philadelphia's Kelly Drive, prepare to see red.

The city's Streets Department has installed a new traffic control system along the drive that aims to put a stop to your lead foot.

New sensors embedded in the asphalt measures driver's speed and when it detects excessive speeding, the traffic light at Fountain Green Drive is changed from green to red.

Running along the banks of the Schuylkill River from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the south, to the East Falls neighborhood to the north, the weaving roadway has a speed limit of 35 mph.

However, the Streets Department found the average speed of the 25,000 drivers that use the road everyday is 54.8 mph.

Richard Montanez, the department's chief traffic and street lighting engineer, headed up the project. He says the system was installed in the beginning of October and has been in the testing phase.

"We were actually tweaking the system for the past five, six weeks," he said. "Now, it’s officially running."

The city won't say at what speed the system activates a red light because, they feel, sharing that information would defeat the project's goal.

"The project is to get people to drive 35 mph, not to drive the threshold that we put in there," Montanez said.

While the so-called "traffic calming system" is new, the technology is not. The same sensors are currently used by the city to detect vehicles looking to make a left turn.

"The sensors already pick up speed and volume, it was just a measure of how to utilize that data as an enforcement tool," he said.

Traffic crashes along the four-mile long roadway are common -- with a number turning fatal. It's also not uncommon for some vehicles to plunge into the Schuylkill River.

The message that we want to send loud and clear is that that speeding will not get you to your destination any faster so slow down and drive safely,” said acting Streets Commissioner David Perri.

Officials have placed electronic signs along the roadway notifying drivers of the new system. Montanez says they plan to keep them up for two weeks and see whether driver's habits change.

The system cost the city just over $11,000, according to Montanez. If the data shows a positive change, the city hopes to install the system along other roads.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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