Say alleluia, commuters; the Lincoln Drive bridge is done

Northwest Philadelphia commuters will get some welcome, ahead-of-schedule relief on Thursday. The new southbound Lincoln Drive Bridge over Ridge Avenue will reopen, six weeks ahead of schedule.

PennDOT says that motorists can definitely expect the southbound bridge to be open by tomorrow’s afternoon rush hour, and the bridge may even be accessible by late morning.

Reconstruction of various parts of the aging interchange where Lincoln Drive, Kelly Drive and Ridge come together between East Falls and Manayunk has snarled rush-hour traffic since work began in June 2010.

Long delays often face any driver trying to cross the Schuylkill to reach City Avenue or the Schuylkill Expressway.

With the southbound bridge back in business, PennDOT will remove the temporary traffic light which, for the past year, has left stalled Lincoln Drive motorists fuming as they wait to cross Ridge to get where they’re going.

PennDOT calls the whole spaghetti of ramps and bridges at that spot the Gustine Lake Interchange.

The five bridges in the interchange were all more than 50 years old, and had been carrying nearly 100,000 vehicles a day. PennDOT engineers judged that four of the five (including the Lincoln Drive bridge) were too far gone to be repaired, and needed to be replaced.  

“Their time had come up,” said PennDOT spokesman Eugene Blaum.

Though the new Lincoln Drive Bridge was not officially scheduled for completion until late September, PennDOT wanted to re-open it by Labor Day, in anticipation of the heightened traffic that accompanies the end of summer vacations and the start of the school year.

The quicker-than-expected finish was made possible by lengthened weekday work hours and weekend work, but it does not represent any cost savings.

Continuing improvements to the interchange also include relocated ramps, new lighting and signage, a stone finish, and new trees and shrubs. Blaum says the entire project is on track for completion in late October.

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