A city-wide look at ongoing transit construction projects

PlanPhilly transportation reporter Christine Fisher hits the pavement and calls around to the Philadelphia Streets Department, SEPTA and the Schuylkill River Development Corporation in order to bring you up to speed on significant transit construction projects that may impact your commuting and recreational activities in the city.

Streets Department Construction Projects

West Market Street from 45th to 63rd 

The city is about half way through a streetscape project along Market Street from 45th to the 63rd streets. The project includes curb and sidewalk improvements, intersection improvements, street paving and new traffic signals.

Darrin Gatti, the Streets Department’s chief engineer and surveyor, said the new signals allow variety in the ratio of green to red light time, which will help reduce commuter traffic congestion.

“The signals are better able to accommodate that, and they all talk to each other so you get better progression [down the street],” Gatti said.  

About one-third of the paving will be completed by the end of this fall, and Gatti expects the new signals to go in this winter. 

During construction at least one lane in each direction will be maintained, he said. 

Paving in Society Hill

Streetscape paving has begun in Society Hill and is expected to continue until the end of the next paving season, which is typically late November. 

“This was a rather long process because, being a historic area, special attention had to be paid to the handicap ramps,” Gatti said. 

“We’re not as far along as we’d like to be because the federal requirements for handicap ramps have taken up some of our funds for paving,” he said. “Now the money we have set aside for paving has to be stretched and cover more work.”

Lehigh Ave

On Lehigh Ave west of Broad Street, the Streets Department has updated the transit signals to feature new controllers. Now work has begun on the controllers east of Broad Street. 

With this type of work, Gatti said, road closures are uncommon. 

41st Street Bridge

As we reported earlier this month, the 40th Street Bridge will open to traffic this November. 

The Streets Department then expects crews to break ground on the 41st Street Bridge in late 2013. 

The 41st Street Bridge is the neighborhood’s third bridge to be rebuilt or overhauled.  

“The neighborhood has really been very wonderful in accepting us because that’s an awful lot of construction for a neighborhood to deal with,” Gatti said.

Delaware Ave

There are major changes coming to Delaware Ave in the next few years – $10 million kind of changes. 

Construction has started on a multi-use trail along Delaware Ave through a federal grant in partnership with the Delaware River City Corporation. 

The running and biking trail will be elevated off the street at curb level. It will start at Allegheny Ave and Richmond Street, travel down Allegheny Ave to Delaware Ave and continue north on Delaware Ave to Lewis Street in front of the Tioga Marine Terminal. 

The second major change, a $10 million project, will begin construction in 2013 and will extend Delaware Ave from Lewis Street to Orthodox Street and up to Buckuis Street. 

This new road will cross over Frankford Creek and under the Betsy Ross Bridge and help relieve truck traffic on Richmond Street, Gatti said. 

He said the project will take between 16 and 18 months once construction begins. 

SEPTA Construction Projects

Wayne Junction Station

Construction is underway at the Wayne Junction Station, one of SEPTA’s busiest and oldest stations, which dates back to 1881.

The project includes new elevators and high level platforms, rehabilitated historic buildings and improved passenger tunnels, stairways and amenities. 

Construction began in October 2011 and is projected to end December 2014.  

33rd and Dauphin Bus Loop

This month construction began on Strawberry Mansion’s 33rd and Dauphin Bus Loop, which is home to one of the SEPTA’s last remaining “trolley barns.”

The $4.4 million, 18-month project includes a rebuilt bus canopy, renovated rental space, SEPTA’s largest green roof to-date and new plumbing, heating and ventilation systems. 

Robert Lund, SEPTA’s chief officer for capital construction, said both Strawberry Mansion and the Wayne Junction community hope the construction project will help revitalize the neighborhoods.

The communities are also paying close attention to the historic renovation elements.

State and federal regulations required that the Wayne Junction Station include rehabilitated historic features, including the station building, Germantown Headhouse and canopies. 

“At Wayne Junction [regulations] dictated everything we did moving forward,” Lund said. “At 33rd and Dauphin we previously received permission to demolish the structure… and put in new, modern facilities, but we listened to the community and what they wanted. We backed off of that.”

Both projects received competitive grant funding and are designed for the long haul. 

“We design our facilities… for very long service life,” Lund said. “You may have a little increased expenditure now compared to commercial developments, but frankly we don’t want to go back there in our lifetime.”

City Hall and 15th Street Stations

In conjunction with the Center City District’s Dilworth Plaza project, SEPTA is installing elevators from the 15th Street Station’s upper concourse, which is directly below Dilworth Plaza, to the 15th Street Market Frankford Line platform and the 15th Street trolley platform.

“This will not make [the] Broad Street [Line] ADA accessible but it is an initial phase of that project, which is not yet funded,” Lund said. 

The project will also include new fare lines, which will allow entrance to the Broad Street Line, MFL and the trolley platform. 

Construction should be complete by the end of 2013, Lund said.

 

Schuylkill River Bank Developments

Two projects are underway to make the Schuylkill River banks safer and more accessible to the public. 

The CSX Bridge project will provide an at-grade, pedestrian railroad crossing from Race and Locust streets to the Schuylkill Banks. When there is train activity, new at-grade gates will close and pedestrians will be able to take the new CSX Bridge over the tracks. When there is no train activity, pedestrians will be able to open the gates and cross the tracks at-grade. 

“The CSX Bridge and crossing will now make it safe and convenient for the public to use the [Schuylkill River] Park,” said Lane Fike, director of capital programs at the Schuylkill River Development Corporation.

The bridge will open to the public on October 20. 

Construction is underway immediately down river on the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, which will extend over the river and connect the Schuylkill River Trail from Locust Street to the South Street Bridge. 

The boardwalk is necessary because there is not enough space between the river and the railroad tracks to continue the trail on land. 

“The immediate goal is to get [the Schuylkill River Trail] to Bartram’s Garden, and this is an important link,” Fike said. Ultimately SRDC hopes to extend the Schuylkill River Trail to Fort Mifflin in South Philadelphia. 

Work on the boardwalk foundations has started. This week, work will start on a test caisson in the river, and shortly following that, caissons for the ramp connecting the boardwalk to the South Street Bridge will be built. 

The boardwalk is scheduled to be complete in mid-2014.

Contact the reporter at cfisher@planphilly.com 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.