After a two-year delay, preliminary construction has started on a long-awaited project that will put a highway cap over a stretch of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia.
The cap will be home to nearly 12 acres of parkland and seamlessly connect Old City to the Delaware River waterfront at Penn’s Landing.
“To actually see a notice to proceed issued to the contractor is just staggering to us. It really signals to everyone that the project is real, the money is secured. And what we view as a transformational project for the waterfront is actually moving forward now,” said Joe Forkin, president of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, the regional economic development agency guiding the development of the new park.
The first part of the $329 million project will see PennDOT demolish an existing cap and build a new one to hold the park, which will also conceal a section of Columbus Boulevard. PennDOT project manager Elaine Elbich said it will take at least two years for her team to complete the work, with visible construction starting sometime this spring.
DRWC and the city will be responsible for building out the new park, about a third of which will sit over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard. The rest of the acreage will slope down to the riverfront.
“It’s a joint effort. So they’ll be doing their work and still we’ll have some heavy construction going on at the same time,” said Elbich.
When it’s completed, the green roof will feature a “natural woodlands” playground, a cafe space, and a reconstructed amphitheater, among other amenities. The Blue Cross RiverRink will also be relocated on the cap.
“I think it becomes a citywide and even regional asset. And start setting the stage for even more quality development to take place,” said Forkin.
An official groundbreaking ceremony has yet to be scheduled.
For now, it’s unclear when the entire project, delayed by the pandemic and other factors, will be completed. Either way, drivers will have to contend with overnight road closures during construction.
“Motorists are going to have to get used to taking the Vine Street Expressway and Schuylkill Expressway,” said PennDOT Engineering District 6 spokesperson Brad Rudolph.
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