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Aug 31, 2017: Another American Street Mishap

From: Lynn Landes []
Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2017 9:06 AM
To: Councilman Mark Squilla
Cc: 'Carlton Williams';;
Subject: another American Street mishap

Hi Mark -  A couple of weeks ago Cliff and I stopped by American Street and noticed a clear dip in the street around 319 S. American Street.  We were going to call it in, but got caught up with other matters.

This past Tuesday, I stopped by and ran into Bob Curley.  I asked him about the dip, since you could clearly see that it had retained rainwater from the night before.  Bob said that Streets knew about the situation and that it was going to get fixed, meaning that they were going to dig up the street and fix a problem that should have never occurred to begin with.

Frankly, from our point of view, the whole job does not look very professional.  The street appears wavy, suggesting that the contractor does not know how to properly survey a street or use a plumb line.

As with the unsafe and out-of-compliance steep sidewalks we called your attention to, once again there seems to be a lack of basic engineering skills by the contractor, as well as poor oversight by Streets, regarding the restoration of American Street.

We believe that it is critical that everyone benefit from “lessons learned” on American Street, since Phillip Street is next to be restored and will likely present more challenging issues.

Lynn and Cliff Landes, Founders
The Philadelphia Society of Small Streets (PSSS) / 215-629-3553




Dear PSSS members:


After the first week of the restoration of American Street, Cliff and I noticed the extreme slope to some of the sidewalks down to the curbs (1 inch per foot), indicating that the curbs had not been reset during the restoration process (in order to be in compliance with the Street Department standard of 1/4 inch per foot).  


We notified Councilman Mark Squilla and Chief Engineer Stephen Lorenz, and according to what we heard, many discussions took place on how to fix the situation.  We were told by an employee of the contractor that the contractor brought this issue to the attention of the Streets Department.  Clearly, a big mistake was made.  Steep slopes constitute an unsafe slipping hazard, particularly under icy conditions.


Although the Streets Department is now trying to fix the problem, a fundamental principal of road engineering was ignored or overlooked in the restoration of American Street. 


As we expressed our concerns in writing to Councilman Squilla and Chief Engineer Lorenz, we noted that if the Streets Department cannot get the proper gradient between the curb and sidewalk on American Street, what are they going to do on Philip Street, where the street is sinking much more dramatically and has created a 2-inch per foot gradient, twice the error on American Street.


A fix is in the works which has made the some of the sidewalks less steep, but in our opinion, not what they should be.  Exacerbating the problem is the Streets Department’s unnecessary and counterproductive requirement to pour a concrete foundation (instead of modified aggregate) for these small streets, making any repairs much more difficult and expensive.  This is an issue that we have raised many times over the last several years.


We are grateful that the error on American Street is being somewhat mitigated, but we hope that the restoration of Philip Street will be properly planned and executed.


Lynn and Cliff Landes, Founders 
The Philadelphia Society of Small Streets (PSSS) / 215-629-3553