South Street Bridge saga

July 14

By Steven Ujifusa
For PlanPhilly

Old age, alterations, and neglect have left the South Street Bridge a shadow of its once-elegant self. Its four watch towers have been lopped off, and the drawbridge mechanisms and grating are sealed with concrete. Patches of rust scar the bridge’s beams and railings. Occasionally, chunks of spalling concrete break loose and fall onto the expressway; or shower into the Schuylkill River.

Bicyclists, cars, and pedestrians all fight for space on this two-lane structure. The northern sidewalk is closed. During rush hour cars leaving the University of Pennsylvania clog the onramps to the Schuylkill Expressway. According to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, cyclists make up about seven percent of all traffic on the South Street Bridge – about 1,000 bikes per day. The competition can be especially harrowing when bikers climb the sharp, steep kink on the east side. Some cyclists avoid the roadway altogether, pushing their way into the one open sidewalk and choosing (illegally) to fight for space with pedestrians.

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As the Streets Department prepared to unveil its replacement for the South Street Bridge in late 2006, many community groups hoped to see a new bridge that carefully balanced the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles. What groups such as the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition did not want to see was another highway style bridge such as the one built for Walnut Street.

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When it opened in 1990, the Walnut Street Bridge had four traffic lanes, narrow sidewalks, and no bike lane. At the opening ceremony, members of the Bicycle Coalition laid their bikes on the pavement in protest. A single bike lane was later added. But for many community activists, it was too little, too late.

“PennDOT created a highway bridge right in the middle of the city,” said John Boyle, Advocacy Director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, in a June 19 interview. “When driving over Walnut Street Bridge, drivers forget they are in a city and reach forty, fifty, even sixty miles an hour on a span connecting two urban neighborhoods.”

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In December 2006, after years of anticipation, the Streets Department released renderings of the new South Street Bridge at a meeting at Greater St. Matthew’s Church on Grays Ferry Avenue. Designed by the engineering and architecture firms of Gannett Fleming and H2L2, the bridge’s main span is five lanes wide at its widest point. There are three westbound lanes at the intersection of the bridge span and the Schuylkill Expressway ramp. Two of them are turn lanes (right and left). The center lane continues through the intersection to West Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania campus. Under this plan, drivers turning onto both the north and southbound ramps will have a much greater turning radius than before, mitigating the hazards posed by the so-called “death ramps.” Eastbound, there will be two lanes of traffic rather than just one. At the bridge’s widest point (at the ramp intersection), the three automobile lanes will be 10 feet, 6 inches across. The two bike lanes will be 5 feet wide, and the flanking sidewalks 8 feet, 11 inches.

The engineers anticipated a huge increase in the number of cars using the bridge over the next decade or so, largely due to the grand plans the University of Pennsylvania has for the west banks of the Schuylkill. Brandywine Realty has already broken ground for Cira Center South on the site of the old post office annex. The César Pelli-designed skyscraper is being pitched to prestigious, high-paying employers. On the old postal lands south of Walnut Street, a group of high rises containing dining, hotels, and conference facilities will form a new Penn campus oriented towards Center City.

Joseph Syrnick, who headed the Streets Department at the time and is currently President and CEO of the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, is proud of the design. He feels the plan combines beauty and functionality. Its four glass-and-steel towers, which will be brilliantly lit at night, are meant to be visual reminder of the original structure’s now-lost guard towers. “H2L2 designed the Germantown Avenue Bridge at Chestnut Hill, and everyone’s been raving about it,” he said in a June 11, 2008 interview. Pointing to a rendering, he continued, “People thought the Eiffel Tower was ugly, but now look what they say. This bridge will be the knight in shining armor, shimmering down there with those towers. I think it will look spectacular!”

But many Center City and West Philadelphia residents were concerned. They felt their desire for a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly bridge had not been addressed by the Streets Department and PennDOT. Rather than a thing of beauty, they saw a concrete funnel for moving traffic onto I-76. “We heard members of the community say over and over again, ‘It better not be another Walnut Street Bridge!’” said Sarah Clark Stuart of the Schuylkill River Park Alliance. Syrnick and colleague Lane Fike at the Schuylkill River Development Corporation deny charges that the bridge was sprung on an unsuspecting public. They cited community meetings that took place three years ago during the design phase. “It’s totally unfair to say there have been no community meetings,” Syrnick recalled on June 11, 2008. “I know it’s been a long time since then. Just because we had the meetings doesn’t mean everyone was happy with everything about the bridge.”

“Federal funding required that we had public meetings,” added Fike. “They took place in the afternoon and evening, but they were not well attended. We advertised in The Inquirer and expected hundreds, but we had very low turnout. The biggest concern of the people who attended was the ramps going to the expressway. The most common comment we’ve heard was ‘you’ve got to get rid of those ramps.’ PennDOT said that was totally out of the question. It would cost more to replace the ramps and close down the expressway than to rebuild the entire the bridge. The impact would just be astronomical. That was really the only complaint we couldn’t address.”

On the heels of the public outcry, journalists entered the fray. In February 2007, two months after the design was released, Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron weighed in. “The engineers have dutifully outfitted the proposed span with bike lanes and a ramp connection to Schuylkill Banks Park,” she wrote, “yet there isn’t an ounce of poetry in its steel bones. After a decade of tinkering with its design, the bridge promises to be little more than a chute for efficiently moving traffic onto the most frightening of the I-76 entry ramps.”

City Paper columnist Bruce Schimmel, who also had written caustically about the proposed bridge, said in a June 10, 2008 interview that he is “concerned and saddened about University of Pennsylvania’s silence” during this controversy.

* * * *

One of the concerned community members who attended the December 2006 presentation was James Campbell, a partner at the architecture and planning firm of Campbell Thomas. Campbell had been one of the leaders of western South Street’s shopping and dining renaissance. He has been active in the South Street Neighborhood Association (SOSNA), and his firm designed the new, multi-million dollar lighting scheme for South Street. In his view, the transition between the bridge deck and the row houses, streetlamps and shops of South Street should be as seamless as possible.

The Campbell Thomas office is perched above the intersection of South and 15th Streets. The South Street that Jim Campbell knows and loves is pedestrian-friendly, humanly-scaled, full of impromptu meetings and conversations. He hoped that the new South Street Bridge would respect this ethos. The prospect of another Walnut Street Bridge, he remembered, “looked scary to an awful lot of people in the neighborhood.”

That reaction, Campbell felt, was rooted in the perception that the Streets Department had failed to incorporate the community’s design suggestions, much like the Walnut Street Bridge designers had done nearly two decades earlier. “It became increasingly evident that there was a mismatch between what was being proposed and what the neighborhood expected,” he said in a June 12, 2008 interview. “We hoped the Streets Department would come up with a bridge that was new, but reasonably scaled, with good pedestrian sidewalks and bike lanes. We were expecting traffic calming on the bridge. We were also hoping for a structure that would make a better connection between Center City and University City. The I-76 ramps would remain as they were but maybe something could have been done to them to make them safer.”

The narrow sidewalks and lack of protected bike lanes especially troubled Campbell, as did the stainless steel LED lamps. “They did not relate to South Street’s new streetlights, for instance,” said Campbell. “We had just spent millions of dollars on a new South Street lighting scheme.”

In response to the Street Department’s design, Campbell and other community leaders formed the South Street Bridge Coalition. After some heavy political lobbying, they managed to secure funding from Senator Vince Fumo and cooperation from the city. Cash in hand, the South Street Coalition partnered with the well-known architecture and engineering firm of Wallace Roberts & Todd to come up with a “community-based” vision for the South Street Bridge. They hoped to produce not just a bridge of the future, but also one that fitted into the neighborhood’s historical context. They felt the needs of the bicyclist and the pedestrian, not just the automobile, should be among guiding forces of 21st century Philadelphia infrastructure planning.

As president of the South Street Bridge Coalition, Jim Campbell needed an advocacy infrastructure to get the word out about their alternative vision for the bridge. He approached the Schuylkill River Park Alliance and told them about his group’s concerns about the approved plan.

Campbell knew that the SRPA had a proven advocacy track record. The SRPA’s most recent campaign had been to secure two grade crossings – at Locust and Race Streets – across the CSX tracks to allow users to access the trail at street level rather than using the bridge stair towers. In order to win public support for these crossings, the SRPA used email alerts and other internet tools to mobilize people to come to rallies and write public officials. The approach worked, despite strong resistance from CSX. Ultimately, CSX agreed to the grade crossings as long as a connector bridge was built in between the South Street Bridge and Locust Street over to the older Schuylkill River Park at 25th and Spruce Streets.

They agreed. “We used our resources to help get the word out to the people who use the trail about their campaign,” said Sarah Clark Stuart of the SRPA. “We understood their need to mobilize people.”

SRPA’s main concern about the bridge is how it enhances the user’s enjoyment of the trail. “We look at everything from the park user’s point of view,” said Russell Meddin, a colleague of Stuart’s, during an interview on June 18, 2008. “We want to make it as easy as possible for someone who is going to be using the trail by bicycle and by walking to make the change from the bridge down to the trail.” Like the SRDC, Meddin and Stuart’s organization wants to see the trail extended “all the way down to Fort Mifflin and connected with a much larger trail called the East Coast Greenway.”

After Meddin and Stuart examined the Streets Department’s design for the bridge, they came to agree with Campbell that it placed too much emphasis on car traffic and not enough on pedestrians and bikers. “Yes, it did have a sidewalk. Yes, it did have a bike lane,” says Stuart of the original design, “but are they the best they can be to accommodate the large volumes of those kinds of users? We agreed it wasn’t the best it could be. It could be improved without shattering the project, and we really think this is doable.”

One of their main concerns was a lack of a median at the crosswalk between the proposed northern ramp and stair tower on the south side of the bridge. Under this design, said Stuart, “bicyclists are faced with hauling their bike on three stories of stairs versus going across traffic lanes to get to the ramp. It’s that kind of planning and thinking that really needed to come to bear on the bridge, and we think a solution is doable.”

When asked about what was perceived as the lack of community involvement in the initial design process, Stuart states that the South Street Bridge should stand out as a lesson for both the city and the community groups. “Community engagement is very tough stuff,” she said. “From my perspective, this was a case in which this was not handled as well as it might have been. There are lots of forces bearing down on the process: PennDOT rules, federal rules, timelines, deadlines that were missed and passed and had to be caught up with. I don’t think community involvement was a top priority.”

In helping the South Street Bridge Coalition, SRPA used the same strategy it had used for securing the grade crossings. As Stuart described, “we built a webpage for the South Street Bridge coalition so that their own constituents could write numerous political officials and let them know what they thought about the South Street Bridge, and we informed our mailing list about the Coalition’s efforts and sample letter.”

Like the original South Street Bridge of 1923, the new structure is being built during what many feel is a turning point in urban planning priorities. During the twentieth century, the horse, the pedestrian and the streetcar – the principal users of the original bridge – were shoved aside by the automobile. Today, the pendulum might be swinging back toward a human-scaled approach that emphasizes foot and bicycle traffic, a nineteenth century approach with a contemporary twist. “There has been huge shift in urban planning and thinking about streets and bridges and roads and how they accommodate multiple kinds of users,” said Stuart.

Meddin felt that the current design was a capitulation to doing things on the cheap, and represents a step backward in Philadelphia’s urban planning outlook. “I think there’s been a pervasive feeling throughout the city that we need to do things on the cheap. But occasionally a developer or city does not do something on the cheap. Liberty Property Trust’s Comcast Center was not done on the cheap: it’s first class, and it’s emblematic of what Philadelphia can do.”

Stuart and other community advocates believed that the recent energy crisis will have a drastic effect on the number of cars versus the number of bicyclists and pedestrians that will be using the South Street Bridge. “The advent in the past six months, especially of high gas prices and a radical increase in bicyclists and pedestrians using city streets, has brought to bear the issue of how the bridge is going to accommodate all those users.”

Meddin and Stuart did not buy the argument that all of the development planned for the westbank of the Schuylkill means the bridge must be built to accommodate as many automobiles as possible. “To use a Hollywood aphorism,” added Meddin, “if you built it they will come. If you build a bridge for cars, cars will come. If you build a bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists will come. We want to see an accommodation of both, in the safest manner possible.”

* * * *

When the South Street Bridge was completed in 1923, Philadelphia and other major American cities were undergoing a radical shift in transportation needs and city planning policies. The span was originally built as a drawbridge that allowed two-masted schooners and other sailing craft to pass through its span. The crews would unload their cargos of lumber, coal, and sand on the Schuylkill docks, and then sail back down to the Delaware River. The mechanism was controlled from the now-vanished watchtowers.

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Although clashes between horses, pedestrians, and cars had concerned many residents as early as 1900, by the time the South Street Bridge opened automobile traffic was still relatively light. Comparatively few middle and working class Philadelphians owned cars. Those that did drove small Model T Fords, and did not use them simply to make a jaunt across the river. Horses continued to pull delivery trucks through Philadelphia’s streets well through the 1930s.

When the South Street Bridge opened, the streetcars were probably its heaviest users. Each morning, streetcars carried thousands of commuters from the row houses of semi-suburban West Philadelphia to the commercial hub of Center City. From 1870 to 1910, developers such as P.A.B. Widener transformed West Philadelphia from farmland to one of America’s most attractive middle class streetcar suburbs. The bridge engineers planned accordingly. Originally, streetcar catenaries lined the bridge deck, and the wires had gaps to allow for the raising and lowering of the bridge. At the same time, the designers made provisions for pedestrian usage by adding built-in barriers that protected walkers from a trolley that might jump the tracks. Or possibly even a runaway horse.

In the early 1920s, the river and its banks was far cry from the tree-lined haven for joggers, bikers, and rowers we know today. It was arguably the least desirable waterfront real estate in Center City. Slaughterhouses, freight wharves, and warehouses lined its muddy, desolate banks. On stifling summer days, the far-reaching stink offended the moneyed residents of Rittenhouse Square and the working class families of Grays Ferry.

In recent years, however, the Schuylkill River Trail, now extending from Locust Street all the way to Valley Forge, has greened and civilized this once desolate landscape. From dawn to dusk, the tree-shaded trail is dotted with scores of bikers, joggers, roller bladers, and walkers. Couples sit on the benches and watch the sun set behind the University of Pennsylvania’s skyline. On summer evenings, people sprawl out on the grass at the base of the Walnut Street Bridge to watch movies projected onto a big screen. Today, it is estimated that 16,000 people per week use the trail. Many reach the trail using the ramps and stair towers on the Market, Chestnut, and Walnut Street Bridges.

The force behind transforming the east bank of the Schuylkill River from industrial wasteland to urban paradise has been the Schuylkill River Development Corporation. Joseph Syrnick, who headed the Philadelphia Streets department before moving to the SRDC, has a very simple mission for his organization, one that dovetails with that of Stuart and Meddin’s Schuylkill River Park Alliance. “Our job is to get the trail down to the Delaware River,” Syrnick said in a June 11 interview. “The connection between Locust Street and the South Street Bridge is next to go. Since the railroad gets closer and closer to the river bank as you go south, the next section of the trail is going to be a boardwalk out into the river, with a concrete surface. In order to connect it to South Street, the ramp we have designed will go from the new South Street Bridge to a point on the river bank to a part of the trail that doesn’t exist yet.”

About three years ago, the SRDC secured a federal grant of $1.5 million to design and build a bicycle ramp that will connect the trail to the new South Street Bridge. The trail extension at the foot of the bridge will be a causeway extending out into the Schuylkill River.

However, a series of delays have prevented construction from starting on schedule, and Construction and labor prices have escalated sharply. Syrnick and Lane Fike are now worried that this grant will not be nearly enough to cover the cost of constructing this crucial link between bridge and trail. “We have $1.5 million for this grant,” said Syrnick. “If prices escalate to $2 million we have nowhere to get the additional funds.”

In the meantime, the old South Street Bridge continues to shower concrete chunks into the river, and onto the expressway. Many worry it might not last another winter.

* * * *

The South Street Bridge Coalition’s plan, titled Design Recommendations for the South Street Bridge, prepared jointly by Wallace Roberts & Todd and Campbell Thomas, was published in April 2008. The report grew out of a community charette that took place in November 2007. About 100 people showed up at the meetings. “There were people from all walks of life,” Campbell remembered, “predominately members of the surrounding residential community, as well as a lot of people who live in Center City, work at the University, and walk and drive across the bridge almost on a daily basis. There were also lot of people from the Bicycle Coalition and users of Schuylkill Banks trail.”

In the community plan, the South Street coalition outlined the following objectives for a new South Street Bridge:
• Moves people and cars well
• Wide urban sidewalks (10-13 feet wide)
• Provides a barrier between cars and pedestrians
• Has bus stop safety islands.
• A crosswalk at Schuylkill River Trail
• Open overlooks with seating
• Landscaped safety medians.

A revised cross section shows the bridge’s sidewalks widened to 11 feet, 1 inch wide – an increase of two feet from the original plan’s specifications. Eastbound traffic will still have the use of three lanes at the intersection with the Schuylkill Expressway ramps. The center lane will remain 10 feet, 6 inches wide, but the right and left turn lanes will be reduced by six inches to 10 feet wide.

East bound traffic will have the use of only one 10 foot, 6 inch lane versus the two lanes of the original plan. This was based on the assumption that the majority of car traffic on the bridge, especially during rush hour, is bound for the Schuylkill Expressway, not South Philadelphia, and will be coming from the University of Pennsylvania. The deletion of the second eastbound lane opened up room for two six foot wide bike lanes, each protected from automobile traffic by 1 foot 9 wide inch barriers. The barriers will be ornamented with traditional street lamps, hanging flowerpots, and banners, and the bridge deck will be enlivened by colorful patterns. In addition, a green median barrier will be placed on the eastern “kink.’ This median is more than just decoration; it will be a visual cue for drivers to slow down as they approach the narrow, one-lane confines of South Street.

Of the proposed ramp that the Schuylkill River Development Corporation has engineered for the bridge, the community plan notes that the Schuylkill River, once a wasteland, has become a popular destination, and that “while a proposed ramp from the bridge will provide future access to the trail, the current design does not anticipate the large number of people who will be traveling on foot or on bicycle to this location.”

According to the South Street Bridge Coalition’s plan, “recent data shows that the number of bicyclists has grown at a rate of twelve percent per year since 1990 and twenty four percent from 2005 to 2006 alone … the current bridge design may be deemed adequate for past levels of bicycle activity, but is not prepared for future increases.”

At the end of the day, Campbell feels that an additional few months spent reconfiguring the bridge will be well worth any additional financial costs. “The overwhelming issue is that we do this bridge right,” he said. “This is a $60 million project, with a result that will last fifty, seventy five, maybe a hundred years. We need to spend our money wisely and end up with something we would all be proud of.”

Campbell and other backers of the community plan feel that their design is a bridge of the future. Urban design principles will be dictated less by the needs of cars and more by those of pedestrians, bikers, and mass transit. In their view, the proposed design is a throwback to the 1950s designs produced under the reigns of Robert Moses and Ed Bacon. “This isn’t the roaring sixties, with its cheap gasoline,” he said. “We will see that the increasing cost of gasoline will lead to an increased emphasis on public transportation, on biking, and on walking. The neighborhood consensus is that this should be a contemporary bridge, not something designed by last century’s parameters.”

When the report came out, Syrnick and Fike stood by the replacement bridge as originally designed. During the June 11 interview, they pointed out that the Arts Commission and Historical Commissions have approved the structure. They are confident that its five-lane wide span will relieve future backups on the I-76 “death ramps.”

“In a few years when Cira Centre South is finished and cars are backing up on a bridge that can’t handle the traffic, people will be complaining about how we didn’t do something about it,” said Fike. “We’ve done the best we can do. You’ve got to take care of the pedestrians and bikers, and we have. I don’t think there’s need for a redesign.”

Syrnick and Fike also disagreed with many aspects of the community design. Speaking as a design professional and not President and CEO of the SRDC, Syrnick said that the community plan simply does not take future development and traffic growth into account. In order to make the community plans feasible and safe, the bridge deck would not just have to be rearranged, but widened to properly accommodate lane widths that match state and federal requirements. To accept the community’s design suggestions would involve a complete structural redesign, and hence an even longer construction delay, further eating into the ramp grant’s buying power.

“The Campbell group’s lane widths are substandard,” said Syrnick. “The traffic rules are there for a reason. If lanes are too narrow, cars are going to be sideswiping each other, and that’s not going to serve people well in the future.” He then added, “I say the numbers don’t work. It’s magic. They are creating lanes that are substandard. I don’t believe they would be approved, and I don’t believe they should be approved. The city would build in segregated lanes if they could. The city isn’t stupid. We initially had the bike lanes sharing the sidewalks, but the bike coalition put the ka-bosh on that because they claimed that they are vehicles and that they deserve our own space on the roadway.”

Regarding the green plantings on the median, Syrnick said, “Realistically you can’t do green on a bridge. The plant people at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society said that on a bridge, flowerpots like those were originally going to put on the JFK Boulevard bridge are going to freeze in the winter time and cook in the summer. On a bridge, it is not a good idea.”

* * * *

Following the release of Design Recommendations for the South Street Bridge, the Streets Department has reentered negotiations with the South Street Bridge Coalition and other advocacy groups to come up with changes to the design. Right now, discussions are still underway, and the Streets Department and the design firm of H2L2 have declined to discuss the matter publically at this time.

David Hollenberg, university architect for the University of Pennsylvania, also could not be reached for comment.

As the days passed and the negotiations continued, supporters of the South Street Bridge Coalition’s plan hoped that the mayor would weigh in on their side. Their hopes were raised in a June 17 speech, when Nutter declared his vision for the future of Philadelphia planning: “We are a walkable city, increasingly home to bicycles. We want to preserve our urban form. We do not want the automobile and its design requirements to dominate the landscape.”

But other politicians also kept mum. “We are meeting with the city about all the design modifications from WRT report,” said Democratic ward leader Marsha Wilkof in a June 13 interview. “The city has been terrific, and we are going through a process with the City and PennDOT to go through all of the recommendations. What I can tell you now is that is the process is going phenomenally well.”

Community groups are waiting for the outcome. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the advocacy group supporting the interests of the city’s burgeoning cyclist population, has closely watched the South Street Bridge for the past several years. John Boyle is less strident in his objections about the original Streets Department design than other leaders, but he still feels there is significant room for improvement. “We sort of signed off on what was presented because we got our bike lanes off the sidewalk,” said Boyle when discussing the current Streets Department design. “We still felt the idea of a physically separated bike lane was better, but we were impressed that the street department was working on a solution for dealing with the conflict issues at the intersection, such as bike boxes where bikes stop in front of the cars, bicycle only signals, an advance pedestrian-only phase signal. But, the idea of creating a better bridge is something we at the Bicycle Coalition like a lot.”

To architect Tim Kerner, co-chair of Center City Residents Association’s Streets Committee and head of Terra Studios, the South Street Coalition’s plan is completely doable and will require no extensive reengineering of the bridge’s structure. Like others in the community, he remains very optimistic about the negotiations currently underway between the South Street Bridge Association and the Streets Department.

“The plan is just re-allotment of space in the new plan,” Kerner said in a June 13 interview. “It’s fairly straight forward; that is unless you had the viewpoint that a lane must be a certain size. The designer’s approach to the original bridge design was that it was a traffic engineering project. All the concerns of the street department are all very legitimate concerns, but simply moving traffic is a very limited objective. We need to take a little bit of that space allotted to traffic and give a little bit more to pedestrians and bicyclists, and meeting that goal seems like an easy thing to do.”

After Senator Vince Fumo agreed to sponsor the community design charette in late 2007, Stuart and Meddin of the Schuylkill River Park Alliance have found the Streets Department to be much more open to community input than they expected. In fact, they were pleasantly surprised.

“I thought the Streets Department did a great job,” Stuart said. “They attended meetings, and were very professional and very genuine.”

Rina Cutler, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities could not be reached for comment. In an email sent to Center City Residents Association member and architect Timothy Kerner on April 21, Cutler stated that the Streets Department was now considering the following revisions put forth in the community plan:
• Sidewalk Treatments – The use of tinted concrete and the addition of diagonal score lines to simulate sidewalk pavers;
• Removal of the Towers – Deletion of the four decorative towers at the pedestrian overlooks;
• Crosswalk Enhancements – Use of imprints, inlays and/or color to highlight the pedestrian crossings at 27th Street and Convention Ave.;

• Modification Traffic Signal Timing – Additional modifications to the timing sequences to maximize pedestrian movements;
• Benches – Installation of benches at the four pedestrian overlooks;
• Banners and Art Work – Installation of banners on the light standards and placement of artwork on the bridge.
• Bicycle Stop Bar – Installation of advance stop bars for bicyclists;
• Guide Rail Modification – Replacement of the mesh and accent lighting with decorative panel inserts or vertical pickets.

Cutler noted at the end of her statement that, “although the physical constraints of this project are extremely tight, we will make a full and honest effort to incorporate changes that benefit pedestrian and bicycle users of the new South St. Bridge.”

Looking ahead to the outcome of the design negotiations, Sarah Clark Stuart remains very optimistic. “I’m very hopeful they will do their best to make the bridge as accommodating and safe as possible. It was an unfortunate chain of events that hit everybody. The lesson is that when you have project like this, a proactive community engagement process is the best way to have substantive and inclusive results.”

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Steven Ujifusa lives and works in Philadelphia. A native of Chappaqua, New York, he received his masters from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design in 2005 and his B.A. in history from Harvard University in 2001.

Contact the reporter at steven.ujifusa@hotmail.com

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