Race Street Connector Phase 2: more technical, less arty

The Race Street Connector remains unfinished but thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Communities Transportation Initiative, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) has been working with engineers and public agencies to design the Connector’s north side.

The north side of the Race Street Connector is the “difficult side,”  DRWC planning director Sarah Thorp told neighbors at a small public meeting Tuesday night. So where Phase 1 dressed up the south side’s streetscape, Phase 2 of the Connector is much more about conquering technical design issues on the north side to calm traffic and improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. [Drawing 1] [Drawing 2]

The conceptual design includes planters at the Connector's northeastern corner that will echo elements of the Race Street Pier.
(The conceptual design includes planters at the Connector's northeastern corner that will echo elements of the Race Street Pier.)

At a public meeting at the DRWC offices last night, staff from DRWC and Langan Engineering explained the project to a group largely comprised of near-neighbors. Here are the major elements of Phase 2:

  • Wider, shared-use sidewalk (bike/pedestrian) that completes the connection from 2nd Street to Columbus Boulevard, and features safer crossings
  • Narrower Race Street to calm traffic
  • Planting beds (likely of COR-TEN steel) at the northwest corner of Race and Columbus that will echo the Race Street Pier’s materials and design
  • Redesigned I-95 ramp to slow the approach for cars (but no separate traffic light)
  • Raised-bed planters at the northwest corner of Race and Columbus Boulevard
  • Metal fencing and bollards (like the south side) to unify the streetscape and get rid of the chain link
  • Improved signage and lighting

Neighbors suggested interpretive signage about the bridge’s history and design (which was well-received) as well as improvements for the landscaping and lighting designs. Unfortunately DRWC also was just notified by PennDOT that they intend to install a large sign at the I-95 on-ramp for alerts and road closure announcements relating to the Girard Avenue Interchange project.

What you won’t see is more lite-brite art or bright yellow letters that read CITY or RIVER. Because so many technical issues dominate the plans, there’s no major design flourish that will improve the Connector’s messaging. There simply isn’t room in the project budget. Plus, just to solve the technical issues, DRWC has been through more than five rounds of concept design work in consultation with PennDOT, Delaware River Port Authority, Streets Department and Federal Highway Administration. DRWC will move through PennDOT approval and bidding processes which will likely last through summer. So don’t expect to see much change until late this year.

PlanPhilly’s Kellie Patrick Gates will be at DRWC’s meeting this week, so stay tuned for more details on Connector plans as part of her coverage. 

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