40th Street Bridge to open in November, 41st span work to follow

Five years after it was closed to vehicle traffic, the 40th Street bridge between East Parkside and Mantua is set to reopen this fall.

Construction crews are working to have the new bridge open to traffic in early November, with complete construction wrapping up by the end of the month, said Streets Department Chief of Construction William Gural, P.E.

The project to replace the former 86-year-old bridge began in April 2011, four years after the bridge had closed.

The 40th Street bridge is one of three bridges connecting West Philadelphia’s Mantua and East Parkside neighborhoods.

At the moment, only one of those bridges, the 42nd Street bridge, is open. 

The other, on 41st Street, has been closed even longer than the 40th Street bridge, and over the years residents on either side of the bridges have expressed frustration with the closures and ongoing construction. 

“It being a main artery, public transportation has had to reroute, but the bridge is convenient,” said Darren Coates, who owns a produce truck near 40th and Poplar streets.

Both the route 38 and 40 buses currently detour around the bridge via 42nd Street and Parrish or Ogden streets.

“We’ve been affected by both bridges being down,” said John Bimbrey, who lives nearby. “It means you’ve gotta get up an extra 15 minutes early.”

The construction has also raised concern about slowed emergency response times and the negative impact of the disrupted link between the two neighborhoods. 

Coates said he is hopeful the bridge reopening will help both his business and community. 

“I see this as a big redevelopment, and I know for sure once that bridge opens a lot of other stuff is gonna open,” he said. 

The new bridge will feature wider sidewalks, improved street lighting, wider shoulder areas and SEPTA trolley facilities. 

The nearly $12 million project received 80 percent federal funding, 15 percent state funding and 5 percent city funding. 

One challenge that the bridge reconstruction posed was that the bridge spans four active, electrified tracks – SEPTA’s busiest regional rail tracks and one of Amtrak’s busiest rail segments in the country. To complete the project without disrupting commuters, crews did much of the work at night.

Shortly after construction is completed at 40th Street, construction on the 41st Street bridge will begin. 

That bridge, which will be funded in the same percentages by the federal, state and city governments, is in its final design phase, and Gural said a final community hearing will be scheduled shortly. 

At the moment, construction on the 41st Street bridge is projected to begin in late 2013 and last approximately two years. 

One challenge that reconstruction of the 41st Street bridge posed was that a major gas main ran beneath the bridge.

“In order to ultimately remove the 41st street bridge and reconstruct it, we needed to figure out how we were going to maintain [gas] service to the neighborhoods,” Gural said.

To avoid any service conflicts, crews relocated the gas main to the 40th Street bridge, where it is now positioned between the new steel girders.

Because the bridges have been closed for so long, Gural said, it is difficult to estimate exactly how traffic patterns will change when the new 40th Street bridge opens, but he predicts it will reduce traffic on 42nd Street and support the communities on either side of the bridge.

“The neighborhood itself has obviously grown over the years,” he said. “The neighborhoods are definitely going to continue growing and be revitalized with the opening of this bridge.”

Contact the reporter at christinefisher8@gmail.com

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