PennDOT gets more feedback on I-95 redo. Final designs coming by fall

Earlier this week, PennDOT representatives reported back to folks who live along the I-95 corridor, near the area between Shackamaxon and Palmer streets, with some mock-ups of what their ideas for Richmond Street and spaces beneath underpasses and along the highway could look like.

PennDOT then gathered more comment based on the images of skate parks, passive parks, lighting, landscaping, bike lanes and  glittery fish decals on the underpass walls. These will be incorporated into final proposals, which will be finished in late summer or early fall. Learn more from the powerpoint.

At that time, there will either be another big public presentation or the PennDOT folks will take the show on the road to individual neighborhood associations to get more input, which will be used to fine tune things in time for the final construction documents needed when the project goes out to bid in late spring, early summer of 2012.

The planning sessions are being held in conjunction with the re-do of I-95 and other nearby roads in Philadelphia. Since PennDOT is re-doing surfaces anyway, said Planning Group Leader Marian Hull, who works for PennDOT consultant URS Corp, they may as well be built with the community’s desires in mind.  In some cases, PennDOT may be able to completely fulfill those desires. But in others where the community wants more than can be paid for in the project, it will take a partnership with a community organization or another entity to finish things up. And in many cases, some group other than PennDOT will have to agree to maintain the new green spaces.

“A lot of things will need to be paved or landscaped – it’s just a matter of how we do it,” Hull said. “If you want it to be a squash court, we can pave it in that way. But we are not going to paint the lines,” she said.

One future project will need so much maintenance for its new rec spaces that PennDOT has already begun trying to assess the potential level of organization and community participation: recreating the space beneath the viaduct that runs from Palmer to Ann streets. “We are continuing to work with the city, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, the New Kensington Community Development Corporation and others to see what kinds of partnerships we can create to care for those spaces,” Hull said. “Maintenance is going to be a big piece.”

Closer to the present, there is one new green/parking space with two different possible futures – a triangle-shaped piece of property between Columbia, Delaware and a future retaining wall that is diagonally across the street from Penn Treaty Park.

Right now, supports for I-95 stand in this piece of property, but they will disappear through the reconstruction, Hull said.   “PennDOT already has a commitment to replace 32 parking spaces that are now in the median, and we had talked about doing it there,” Hull said.

But during a previous public session, comments were made that this might not be the best solution.  The highway planners looked elsewhere in the area, but could not find another place to put these spaces that did not pose problems.  Meanwhile, other people have suggested that more than 32 parking spaces go into the area. Adding another 20 would more than make up for the loss of parking that Penn Treaty Park would experience as its master plan for redevelopment becomes reality.

“There’s one-and a-quarter acres there, so there is still a lot of room for green spaces – or a dog park, which was talked about,” Hull said.

It will take more research to determine if the 32 or 52 parking spots work better, Hull said. PennDOT is still open to having no parking there, but that would take more than research. Someone would have to come forward with an alternative, nearby site for which they have title, she said.

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