PennDOT says replacing bridges over Vine Street won’t interfere with pope’s visit

 Seven bridges crossing Route 676 are slated to be rebuilt. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Seven bridges crossing Route 676 are slated to be rebuilt. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A major construction project will begin on Vine Street next year. Officials are hoping one major bridge will be replaced before the pope comes to town.

The $64 million project will replace seven structurally deficient bridges over Interstate 676, better known as the Vine Street Expressway. PennDOT’s Gene Blaum says the plan will move forward immediately, starting with the 19th Street span.

“Nineteenth Street bridge will be closed and detoured, it will then be removing the beams and the deck getting everything cleared off. And when that operation is going on, we will demolish the structure,” Blaum said. “That will be done between midnight and 5 a.m., and that will mean closures of Interstate 676.”

The current two-span bridge will be replaced with a single span, no longer needing a support pier in the middle. Blaum says it makes for a better bridge.

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“It’s a much simpler structure.  It’s more efficient and to get the piers out, those piers are just another part of the structure that has to be maintained, and these bridges we want them to last at least 75 to 100 years,” he said.

The first bridge should be finished by August, and the project shut down for the month of September. Why, you might ask? Because of a visit by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families, which could bring a million people to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

David Searles of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association says the bridge project is worrisome for those living nearby.

“The night-time construction, the noise is a big concern I think,” Searles said. “I think as big of a concern is what happens with the homeless that are currently being fed in front of the Family Court building.”

Searles says he hopes the city and the contractor will be able the manage the situation.

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