by Kara Savidge for Philadelphia Neighborhoods
Ten, 15, 20 — the exact number of years since they could drive across the 40th and 41st street bridges is beyond memory for Parkside residents, but many say it’s been too long.
The bridges, which run from Westminster Street to Poplar Street, south to north respectively, are totally off limits to vehicles, leaving many locals to resent the resulting transportation inconveniences. Both the 38 and 40 route buses are forced to detour around the bridge to Girard Avenue, 42nd Street and Parrish or Ogden streets.
Edward Patton has lived in the area for 13 years and says the bridge has been down for at least 20 years, but not more than 25.
“They’re in bad shape underneath which is why they stopped running the buses across it,” Patton said. “This is the original 40 bus route, and I used to use it to ride to my job at [University of] Penn[sylvania].”
Today, Patton rides his bike to and from work.
In January 2011, the demolition and reconstruction of the 40th Street bridge began, and the project is expected to be completed and open to the public in December of 2012, as stated in a project synopsis by the city’s Streets Department. The reconstruction project will cost $11.76 million and 80 percent of the project was financed by federal funding.
Both the 40th and 41st street bridges run over the Amtrak train tracks. After the 40th Street bridge is completed, the city intends to begin work on the 41st Street bridge.
But residents in the area feel that the reconstruction has taken too long already and has significantly cut off the neighborhood from its neighbors to the south, including Mantua and University City.
Akeema Brown crosses the 41st Street bridge multiple times a day, on the way to her nephew’s school in the morning and on their way home in the afternoon. She pointed to opposite sides of the bridge, as she explained these locations and her daily route.
“Hopefully they get this open very soon,” Brown said. “It’s ridiculous that it’s been this way for so long and that people did this graffiti that’s here.”
Many, like Brown, feel that the neglect of the bridges has incited carelessness on the part of some neighborhood residents, as trash and graffiti litter the bridge and surrounding streets.
“My mom doesn’t like me walking across the bridge when it’s dark, but so far I’ve been fine,” Wilson said. “But if they would open this the buses won’t have to detour and the intersection will start to work,” she said, referring to the north side of the bridge at 41st and Poplar streets.
When asked about the potential impact of the bridge’s reopening, Brown firmly replied that it will have a huge and positive impact.
“The buses will run, it’ll create traffic and maybe nobody will want to spray paint anymore.”
Kara Savidge will be bringing Eyes on the Street/PlanPhilly dispatches from Mantua and Parkside as part of her work for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a publication of Temple’s Multimedia Reporting Lab. PlanPhilly is a partner in this project, so expect to see stories from other Philadelphia Neighborhoods as well.