Aug 8, 2023 - News

Utility poles blight South Philadelphia sidewalks

An example of the utility poles left laying around Philly's Bella Vista and Queen Village neighborhoods.

An example of the poles left at Philly's Bella Vista and Queen Village neighborhoods. Photo: Courtesy of Melanie Roberts

Utility poles left on the ground in South Philadelphia have outraged residents, including a mother who says they're a risk for her visually impaired children.

Driving the news: Melanie Roberts tells Axios she has counted nearly a dozen utility poles blocking front-porch stoops and obstructing sidewalks around her Bella Vista neighborhood over the last six months.

  • They're a hazard for her 8- and 10-year-old daughters, who require canes to get around the city and who have tripped over them while walking to the park and music lessons.

Why it matters: Roughly 16% of Philadelphia residents have a disability, and many still face daily barriers in the city.

Zoom in: The poles look to be about 50 feet long and some have metal slats used to hang signage. They're generally used as replacements for older ones but have yet to go up, city and utility officials said.

  • Roberts says she and other residents living in Bella Vista and Queen Village have reported the matter to councilman Mark Squilla's office.

Details: At least four of the poles belong to PECO, said Anne Kelly, Squilla's chief of staff.

  • Kelly told Axios late last week that the utility company pledged to address the issue within seven to 10 days.

The other side: A PECO spokesperson said one of the replacement poles near where the family resides has been picked up but did not address the other poles.

  • Customer safety is the top priority, the company tells Axios, asking residents to report exact locations of other poles so they can be retrieved.

Zoom out: Last year, the city settled a lawsuit brought by disability activists who complained that Philly wasn't following the Americans with Disabilities Act and a second federal accessibility law, per the Inquirer.

  • The settlement requires the city to install or fix at least 10,000 curb ramps over the next 15 years.

The bottom line: Roberts tells Axios that her family moved to Philly from Kansas City earlier this year, partly to get closer to CHOP, where her daughters receive care for a degenerative genetic disorder that will likely cause them to go blind. She made it her "mission" to get the poles removed.

  • "As a desperate mom, I'm just starting my journey," she says.

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