Somerton: Resident and Philly Outreach Teams Push for Better Accessibility

The daily commute to work is an essential part of the day for many residents in the city of Philadelphia, but for some, this may not be an easy feat. 

Timothy Worstall, a Northeast Philadelphia resident, has to walk past the Somerton Regional Rail station along Station Road at least once per day to complete his daily errands. 

Worstall has cerebral palsy, which impairs his mobility. The lack of sidewalks makes approaching and walking by the station dangerous for pedestrians.

“You have to walk about three feet from traffic,” he said. “There are vehicles turning, speeding. And there’s about 7,600 vehicles a day on a normal week.

Heavy traffic also puts him at risk.

“This road clearly is not supposed to be a highway and that’s what it’s used as,” Worstall said.

For over two years, Worstall has been working to bring attention to this situation with hopes to get himself and other pedestrians dividers that would create a barrier between pedestrians and traffic. 

Worstall first tried to contact the PA congressmen about his situation , but was unable to obtain the support he needed from them. 

“I tried my local politicians and we’re not being taken seriously,” Worstall said.

Worstall reached out to SEPTA, but found his efforts to reach them unsuccessful as well.

The Somerton SEPTA Station .

Despite a lack of help, Worstall continued to reach out. Some of the largest sources of support have come from his very own community, something that’s encouraged him to keep pushing during these times.

“No one here has ever said to me, ‘Sir, this isn’t a problem,’” he said. “Clearly it is a problem and that’s what’s keeping me going.’ 

Eventually, found an ally in the Somerton Civic Association

Chris Bordelon, president of the civic association, first learned about Worstall’s plight after he spoke at a January meeting. 

As Worstall voiced his concerns Bordelon and many other community members were quick to agree. 

“People have become used to jumping out of the way of the cars that are passing through here,” Bordelon said.

Chris Bordelon, president of the Somerton Civic Association, points out traffic issues along the walking path near the road Worstall and other pedestrians take to get to the station.

Worstall and Bordelon began working together to contact more people to bring light to the situation.

“We wrote to a bunch of city officials in different departments because there’s always been some confusion among them about what the situation is and who is responsible for the area,” Bordelon said.

Based on the outreach, Worstall was able to gain attention within the City. 

In February, Worstall developed a plan to be presented to the Philadelphia Streets Department. Mary Beth Morgan, an independent living specialist at Liberty Resources was one of many to support and advocate for Worstall.

Mary Beth Morgan, an independent living specialist at Liberty Resources, has worked closely with Worstall to bring awareness to his story.  

“I have been there when he met Septa, when he met with congressmen, when he’s gone to Civic association meetings,” Morgan said.

Worstall’s proposed plan involved installing reflective delineator posts along the perimeter of the parking area by the SEPTA station to demark a safe space for pedestrians to walk. 

The delineators would also signal to drivers not to  park or drive in the area designated for pedestrian traffic.

To help develop this plan, Worstall sought input from Will Fraser, the sustainable transportation and outreach coordinator at the Clean Air Council and Feet First Philly

“The Streets department reached out and said, ‘Hey, we saw your proposal and that’s something we want to do,” Fraser said. “They said within the month they would plan to go out and install this dedicated pedestrian space for folks to use.”

Shortly after submitting the proposal and getting a response from the Streets Department in the spring, COVID-19 occurred. Meetings of the Somerton Civic Association were no longer held, and Worstall and his advocates were not receiving any word from their contacts in the City.

However, on  Oct. 31st, around 8 months later, Worstall was greeted with great news. The delineator posts that he and the rest of his team had proposed to the Philadelphia Streets Department were finally installed.

Newly installed delineator posts by the Philadelphia Streets Department wrap along the road of the Somerton Station. Image credit: Timothy Worstall

While it is unclear to Worstall whether or not the delineator posts are considered to be city officials’ permanent solution, he appreciates that the Philadelphia Streets Department was true to their word. 

“I remain hopeful that the speeding, high-traffic volume, no stop signs, and lack of sidewalks will be addressed by officials in the future,” Worstall said. 

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for reporting this story. After PN’s reporters started looking into this the city councilmember who had the Streets Department hold up the improvements finally caved and let them happen.

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