News Article - August 28, 2009

By Linda Loyd

  Starting next week, if you park illegally on the ramps off I-95 and the access roads near Philadelphia International Airport to wait for an arriving flight, you are going to get a hefty ticket. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is erecting 33 red-and-white signs around the airport to warn drivers it's illegal to park on the side of roads.

   The signs instruct them to wait instead in PennDot's "Park and Ride" lot on nearby Bartram Avenue. But that's not so easily done: The signs do not say how to get there. PennDot opened the 3.3-acre lot in 2003 to promote carpooling among commuters. Its purpose had nothing to do with the airport. In late 2004, with illegal parking off I-95 and the sloping ramps to the airport a growing problem, it was also designated a "cell-phone" waiting lot, where motorists could park free until receiving a call that a passenger had landed.

   But the lot, which has 59 spaces and is lighted, has been underused - though state police use it to park and inspect tractor-trailers that they stop for violations. Many people do not know it exists, let alone where it is. "The airport has put up many directional signs telling people this is the way to the lot," PennDot spokeswoman Jenny Robinson said. The airport's Web site,, has a map and directions. "They've been promoting it all along. It's hardly a secret," Robinson maintained. None of that was helping those who were parked waiting for deplaning family and friends last night.

   Take Mary Walker, a homemaker from Willingboro, who idled near the International Terminal as she awaited a passenger coming to Terminal D on an Air Tran flight. Asked if she knew about the cell-phone lot, she said: "No, I never heard of it. Never. I barely know where the airport is." Paul Dunn, a fund-raiser from Center City, was one of a dozen or so drivers parked on the shoulder of Route 291, the road inside I-95 at the airport. "No, I haven't heard of it, and I would use it if I saw the sign," Dunn said. "I sort of thought this is the cell-phone lot." He also didn't know where Bartram Avenue is.

   State police say they will begin ticketing loitering motorists, and citations will cost as much as $134, State Police Capt. David Young said. "People are risking their lives, and the lives of others, by parking on the side of the road," he said. "We were always chasing them off. It seemed to get worse and worse." Young, working with City Councilman Frank Rizzo, urged PennDot to install clearer signs. "We wanted better signage so we'd be more comfortable citing people if they parked there," Young said. One problem, Rizzo said, is that people do not know the commuter lot and cell-phone lot are "one and the same." "The signs were never clear that Park and Ride was the location where you would go to use the cell-phone lot," Rizzo said. He added that he would be "disappointed" if the new signs were not clear.

   They read: "No stopping or standing. Use Bartram Avenue Park & Ride lot to wait for arriving flights." There is no mention of a cell-phone waiting lot, as they are known at other airports, or how to get to Bartram Avenue. The lot on Bartram Avenue, between Route 291 and 90th Street, is owned by the state but maintained by the city-owned airport, which pays for trash and snow removal. In 2005, the airport spent $16,200 on 128 green directional signs to the lot and $400 on a fence sign at the front of the lot, airport spokesman Mark Pesce said. "I don't know if it's a question that people don't know about it or more that they are not concerned," PennDot's Robinson said. "They are choosing to park on the shoulders because they may feel that's easier for them." State police want to get the message out that when the signs are all up, motorists will be cited for parking illegally. "We will start enforcing it immediately," Young said. "It's always been illegal to park on the ramp on a highway, but people don't realize it."

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer