The Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) board authorized a plan to build a 170-spot parking lot underneath the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
The new lot could be open as soon as September, said DRPA Government Relations and Grants Administration Manager Mark Lopez. The DRPA will partner with the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) to operate the lot for monthly parking only.
Currently, the DRPA allows some vans from the Veterans Multi-Service Center park underneath the bridge, but otherwise blocks it off to the public, using it primarily as a storage space.
Lopez said that the agency was already doing work to upgrade the lighting and fencing underneath the bridge. That work will now be accelerated, boosted by some PPA funds, which means the lot will open a few months sooner than originally planned.
The PPA and DRPA still need to finalize terms for sharing the capital construction costs and operating revenues, including how much the monthly parking fee will be. But Lopez said that’s why they turned to the PPA.
“We’re partnering with the Philadelphia Parking Authority so we can do affordable parking,” said Lopez. “We’re not gouging any neighborhood residents.”
Lopez added that agencies met last Friday and only had a few details left to finalize on the partnership. PPA officials were unavailable to comment.
The decision to offer long-term parking under the bridge comes barely a month after the publication of Old City District’s Vision 2026 plan, which pushed for opening the underutilized space for some public use.
Old City District Executive Director Job Itzkowitz praised the news, while saying Vision 2026 focused more on improved transit, pedestrian, and bicycle access,
“We recognize there are people who still use cars to get into Old City and residents who have cars, we realized this was an opportunity for a place to hold vehicles,” said Itzkowitz. “If that opens up parking on the street for customers and visitors, that’s a great thing.”
Area residents have long wanted to use the space under the bridge for something.
“I’ve been here for 13 years,” said Lopez. “The community has been asking us [the entire time] for some parking in the area.”
HE WAS TROLLING US, RIGHT?
In multiple prior interviews with PlanPhilly, including an interview in late March, DRPA CEO John Hanson cited security and safety concerns for why the area underneath the bridge couldn’t be used for parking. Today, Hanson said that the authority finally managed to address those concerns at long last.