East Falls Community Council approves $1.5 million plan to replace deteriorating wall near SEPTA tracks

On Monday, the East Falls Community Council approved a plan by the Streets Department for a wall that will replace a crumbling stone barrier that separates Cresson St. from SEPTA’s Manayunk-Norristown Regional Rail line.

The present wall, which runs from above Midvale Avenue to Cresson Street, is suffering from both deterioration and partial collapse: stones have fallen into the rail bed, sizable holes are present, and project engineers noted that the wall has a forward cant.

The plan calls for the installation of a three-and-a-half foot concrete wall with a stone façade, topped by approximately five feet of galvanized steel fencing that would run the length of the 330 ft. long wall.

The adjacent stretch of Cresson Street would also be repaved as part of the project, which with completed plans is ready for bidding and is expected to conclude in late November.

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The new wall is estimated to cost approximately $1.5 million.

Impact on transportation 

Problems with the wall were first brought to the community’s attention at an EFCC meeting one year ago, resulting in an investigation by the Streets Department into the existing wall’s condition. An inspection revealed that the entire wall was compromised, necessitating a complete overhaul of the wall, which extends from the street to the SEPTA rail beds below.

As SEPTA shares responsibility with the city for the wall, the transit provider will also share the financial burden for the repairs. However, to the relief of many present, SEPTA representatives said that commuters should experience few effects as a result of the project.

Taking advantage of other track outages along the Manayunk-Norristown corridor, SEPTA will close the outbound tracks that pass through to the site along with the outbound train platform. The outages will occur only during the daytime, with no expected impact on peak-hour service.

Pedestrian access along Cresson Street will be maintained throughout the duration of the project, but motorists will experience road closures. To ensure access to several apartments that are situated in the middle of the block, Cresson Street will be closed a half-block at a time.

At a prior EFCC meeting on the topic, project officials related that overgrown weeds, which later metastasized into trees, contributed to the compromising of the original wall’s structural integrity. They won’t be returning, but the trimming of nearby trees and vegetation will be included in the current plan.

Work expected to begin on Aug. 1

Some residents expressed concerns about a similar deteriorating wall further west on Cresson Street, as well as the repointing of a wall on Skidoo Street, opposite the project.

In response, Darin Gatti, chief bridge and transportation engineer for the Streets Department, said that residual monies from the project’s budget could be applied towards additional repairs.

Gatti was reluctant to commit to specifics as bids have yet to be accepted, but with community approval obtained, that process should begin in the coming weeks. Following the finalization of bidding, work is expected to being on Aug. 1, with four months of construction expected to conclude on Nov. 29.

“When the bids come in, we’ll have a better idea about how far we can go with the wall pointing,” he said.

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