Our second annual city-wide look at ongoing transportation projects
If all goes according to plan, by this time next year Philadelphia will have both a completed Dilworth Plaza and a decked out Schuylkill River Boardwalk. As crews chip away at these and other transportation related projects, PlanPhilly caught up with those leading the work. In the second-annual PlanPhilly transportation construction roundup, we learned what the Philadelphia Streets Department, SEPTA, Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Center City District, Delaware River Port Authority and Amtrak have in store for the city this fall.
Philadelphia Streets Department
The Streets Department has a number of projects in the works. Those include the following:
West Market Street – Streets is putting the finishing touches on this streetscape project that has brought curb and sidewalk improvements, intersection improvements, street paving and new traffic signals to Market Street from 45th to 63rd streets.
Paving in Society Hill – This long running paving project in the southeast quadrant of Center City is expected to be complete by the end of this year. That project was complicated by the neighborhood’s historic character, narrow streets and sidewalks and federal ADA requirements.
Lehigh Ave – Since last year, the Streets Department updated transit signals on Lehigh Avenue east of Broad Street. Now crews are updating signals west of Broad Street, and that work is about 50 percent complete.
Passyunk Ave – The Streets Department has completed the majority of signal and intersection upgrades on Passyunk Ave. west of Broad. In several spots along that corridor Streets installed bumpouts to reduce pedestrian crossing distances and improve traffic flow. PennDOT is preparing to repave the street starting this fall.
Stenton Ave. – The Streets Department started on a streetscape and traffic signal upgrade project this past July. That project stretches from along Stenton Ave. and Godfrey Ave. from East Evergreen Ave. to Front Street. The Streets Department expects the work to be completed by the end of 2014.
41st Street Bridge – This project isn’t quite shovel ready, but it is important enough to include in the construction roundup. The 41st Street Bridge is the third of three West Philadelphia bridges that the Streets Department has been working to overhaul for years. Around this time last year, crews finished the 40th Street Bridge. Now the 41st Street Bridge is nearing the end of design phase and recently received community and Art Commission approval. The Streets Department expects Amtrak to begin removing its overhead wires in 2014 and bridge construction to begin in 2015.
“That bridge has been closed for some time, and the community has been extremely patient,” said Darin Gatti, chief engineer at the Streets Department.
Delaware Ave. – This fall Streets will start advertising the Delaware Ave. extension project, which will eventually extend Delaware Ave. from Lewis Street to Bridge Street. The $10 million project will be done in three phases. Design for the first phase, from Lewis Street to Orthodox Street, is complete, and construction could begin as early as this coming spring. Phase two will eventually extend Delaware Ave. from Orthodox Street to Buckius Street, and Phase three will connect Buckius Street to Bridge Street.
Tower Street – The Streets Department is building its first-ever “green” retaining wall on Tower Street between Grape and Cotton streets. Rather than fix a retaining wall failure with concrete, the Street’s Department’s consultant, Gilmore & Associates, recommended a “green,” living wall concept that will brace the wall with steel covered in a wildflower mix. The green wall, which turned out to be cheaper than the standard concrete wall would have been, will be completed this year.
“It’s something that is new for us and if it works well maybe it’ll catch on,” Gatti said.
Cresson Street – The Streets Department is working on a joint project with SEPTA to repair the wall supporting Cresson Street from Calumet Street and Midvale Ave. That work is expected to be completed by next year.
Bustleton Ave – This TIGER Grant-funded project is already in progress on the full-length of Bustleton Avenue. The work includes signal and some intersection improvements and should wrap up in the spring of 2016. The new signals will allow for varying red-light/green-light ratios that can be altered given factors like morning and evening rush hours and summer versus winter traffic patterns.
“They’re much more versatile, so we can really fine-tune the timing to handle the traffic,” Gatti said.
Woodland Ave. Signal Improvements – Another signal upgrade is set to begin this winter on Woodland Ave. Streets will upgrade 26 traffic signals and some nearby intersections from 42nd Street to Island Ave. The work is scheduled to be complete in the fall of 2015.
Like the Streets Department, SEPTA has several projects in the works.
Bridgeport Viaduct – As PlanPhilly reported previously, SEPTA has closed the Bridgeport Viaduct on the Norristown High Speed Line for temporary repairs. During this closure, passengers are being shuttled between the Norristown Transportation Center and Bridgeport Station by bus. The repair work, which is primarily focused on necessary timber replacement, is nearly 50 percent complete and crews are working six days per week to complete the project this November.
City Hall and 15th Street Renovations – In conjunction with Center City District’s (CCD) Dilworth Plaza project, SEPTA is installing new elevators and fare lines in 15th Street Station. SEPTA’s crews can only advance as fast as the CCD crews, but SEPTA officials said they will have no problem meeting the September 2014 deadline.
New Payment Technology zone offices – When SEPTA’s new payment technology replaces tokens with “smart” devices like cards and phones, five zone offices will oversee the system and provide customer service via phone and video connections. The 69th Street Transportation Center, AT&T Station, Frankford Transportation Center and Suburban Station zone offices are finished. SEPTA officials say the last zone office is nearing completion at the Fern Rock Transportation Center.
SEPTA has also started the advanced test pilot of some of the fare equipment that will makeup the new system. Test turnstiles are in place at 13th Street Station and 60th Street Station.
Wayne Junction Renovation – Work is in progress at Wayne Junction Station and is expected to be complete by this time next year. The $18 million project, funded through a combination of Federal Transit Authority grants and capital funding, includes historic restoration, ADA ramps and high level platforms, new elevators and other passenger amenity improvements.
Positive Train Control progress – Line by line, SEPTA has been working to update each regional rail line so that it complies with the federally mandated Positive Train Control (PTC). The safety measure is intended to keep passenger trains from colliding and must be in place by December 31, 2015. SEPTA is still tracking to meet this deadline, though as PlanPhilly has reported previously, it is putting a strain on the already cash-strapped agency. At the moment, crews are working to bring the Manayunk/Norristown Line into compliance. Work on the Cynwyd Line will begin this winter, and a recent TIGER grant will make it possible for SEPTA to begin the major overhaul necessary to bring the West Trenton Line into PTC compliance.
Boardwalk advancing along Schuylkill River
The Schuylkill River Boardwalk project is advancing as planned but won’t be ready for use until (fingers crossed) this time next year. According to Lane Fike, director of capital programs at the Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC), all of the caissons, pier caps and beams are in place. The major work remaining is building the deck on the main boardwalk and ramp. That requires pouring concrete in 21 deck spans and four or five ramp spans.
The project was initially set to be complete in September 2014. At the moment the works is a month or two behind schedule, but crews might still be able to make up for lost time. Progress is largely dependent on weather.
The best places to see the boardwalk for yourself are the South Street Bridge and the CSX Bridge from the current terminus of the Schuylkill River Trail into Schuylkill River Park. This Thursday, SRDC will will host a bridge lighting ceremony for the four Schuylkill River Bridges just north of the South Street Bridge (the Walnut Street, Market Street, JFK Boulevard and SEPTA bridges). The architectural lighting on those bridges has been fully refurbished to replicate the original lighting done in 1999. More information for that event is available online.
Dilworth Plaza continues above ground
For months the construction of Dilworth Plaza was below ground, making it hard for people to see why they were being diverted around City Hall by endless construction fences. Now though, the work has moved above ground. Crews have completed about 60 percent of the concrete slab that covers the underground portions of the site and the rest of this “roof” will be poured in the beginning of October. Remaining work includes the landscaping on top of the concrete slab, installation of the head houses that will lead beneath Dilworth Plaza, elevators, stairways, fountain equipment, steel for the cafe, curbs, light poles and street lighting. The project is still on schedule to be completed in the summer of 2014.
Deck the Walt wraps up in December
A winter holiday present to Walt Whitman Bridge commuters, construction on the Walt Whitman will wrap up this December. Since August 2011, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) has been working to redeck the seven-lane, suspension bridge – a project that included replacing the 55-year-old deck with a jointless, “floating” deck.
The $140 million deck removal and replacement project is the second largest capital improvement project ever undertaken by the DRPA. When construction wraps up in December, the project will be about six months ahead of schedule.
PATCO replaces subway grates
PATCO is in the midst of a $2 million project to replace subway vents in Center City Philadelphia and Camden, N.J. The work includes replacing the metal grates on sidewalk areas above PATCO subway tunnels and repairing the concrete vaults that support those grates. Crews will also clean the drainage systems around the support vaults.
Working on 8th Street from Locust Street to Race Street, Locust Street from 18th Street to 8th Street and Franklin Square from 8th Street to 6th Street, crews are advancing block by block at a rate of about one block per week. The Philadelphia-based work will wrap up in December, and crews will begin in New Jersey this spring.
As PlanPhilly reported in July, Amtrak has been at work outside of 30th Street Station’s west entrance since fall 2012. That $30 million project to overhaul the west entrance with improved vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow, enhanced lighting and expand public parking, will be complete this November. Amtrak will continue to work underground to fortify the infrastructure and improve parking conditions underground through the fall of 2014.
WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.