Construction over the Schuylkill River is never an easy process for Philadelphia. And now, the bridges in Center City that have gone without repair for decades are finally getting a long overdue facelift.
PennDOT held a community meeting on Wednesday at Greenfield Elementary to discuss the ongoing rehabilitation of the Chestnut Street Bridge and surrounding roads.
Built back in 1957, the bridge is due for major rehabilitation. The preliminary stages of the three-year, $103 million reconstruction project began in June.
In the past five years, PennDOT rehabilitated the Market Street Bridge and the surrounding area. After the current work wraps up in 2020, PennDOT’s construction crews will cycle back to the Market Street area, according to PennDOT’s Paul Boles.
The Chestnut Street Bridge will be closed to traffic entirely for a year beginning June 2019. As part of the bridge’s reconstruction, it’s bike lane will shift from its current position on the right side of the street to the left. At the intersection of Schuylkill Avenue and Chestnut, a brand new bike lane traffic signal — the first of its kind in Philadelphia — will be added, allowing cyclists to make a left turn ahead of motorist traffic.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has long advocated that PennDOT consider these bike signals during large capital projects. The Coalition unsuccessfully advocated for bike signals when PennDOT rebuilt the South Street Bridge almost a decade ago.
“Whenever we have the opportunity to comment on these big capital projects, we ask whether or not bike signals can be installed,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition. Clark Stuart explained that although the Coalition had not given input on this specific project, they believe their past efforts have led PennDOT and the city to give more thought to cyclist safety. “We would like to see to see bike signals installed at any heavily trafficked intersection.
Construction will also include work on the Schuylkill Avenue bridge deck that extends over I-76, and the entrance ramps alongside it. That work will not cause closures on the expressway.
The bridges on Chestnut that extend over 30th Street, the CSX rails, and 24th street, will also be repaired. The latter two will require specific precaution due to their historic nature as part of the original bridge structure. “You can’t just blow through history, can’t treat this like any other bridge,” said John Eagan, senior vice president of Alfred Benesch & Company, the design engineers on the project.
While neighbors were less-than-thrilled to hear about the impending construction-caused traffic snarls, they understood the need to replace the sixty-year-old bridge, said Joseph Sirignano, a project manager for Benesch.
“Everybody knows this work needs to be done,” said Sirignano, adding that Philadelphians have dealt with these kinds of closure before. “When South Street was closed people adapted, this will be the same.”
CORRECTION: Due to an editor’s error, the headline originally said that the bridge would close “next summer”. It is scheduled to close Summer 2019.