State gives $12M for Philly transportation projects

In a few years time, Market Street in Old City may look brand new, thanks to a $3 million state grant announced Tuesday.

An Old City District rendering shows a redesigned Market Street.  (courtesy of Old City Distric)

An Old City District rendering shows a redesigned Market Street. (courtesy of Old City Distric)

This story originally appeared on PlanPhilly.

In a few years time, Market Street in Old City may look brand new, thanks to a $3 million state grant announced Tuesday.

The project is one of six Philadelphia projects awarded Multimodal Transportation Fund (MTF) grants by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Statewide, 42 projects will receive $49 million in funding.

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The $3 million grant will advance Old City District’s vision of a more walkable and bikeable neighborhood, said executive director Job Itzkowitz, by removing Market Street’s westbound travel lane between 6th and 2nd streets to make way for a pair of parking-protected bike lanes. “The idea is to make Old City better connected via multiple modes of transportation to other neighborhoods,” Itzkowitz said.

Old City District conducted a traffic study in 2016 that showed that relatively few cars traveled westbound through the neighborhood, whereas about half of the eastbound traffic on Market Street went to the on-ramp for I-95. Itzkowitz said that most, if not all, of the street’s parking would be maintained. Replacing the travel lane with protected bike lanes would make Market safer for both cyclists and pedestrians, he said.

While Itzkowitz said he was, “very excited,” by the announcement,  there is still a long road ahead.

The total project cost is estimated at $7 million. Philadelphia’s Streets Department is seeking an additional $3 million from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which runs its own, separate Multimodal Transportation Fund. The state agency usually announces its MTF grant awards a few months after PennDOT. The $1 million left to raise will come out of Streets’ capital budget, fulfilling the funds’ 30 percent local match requirement.

Even after the city lines up funding sources, finalized planning, community outreach, design, and construction is expected to take five to six years, said Angie Dixon, director of planning at the city’s Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems (OTIS).

The rest of the city’s $12.4 million take will be shared among projects outside of Center City.

The Streets Department received $2.7 million from the PennDOT MTF for safety improvements to Parkside Avenue in West Philadelphia. The money will go towards a series of pedestrian islands and other intersection improvements on Parkside between 41st and 51st Streets. The goal is to make it easier for neighborhood residents to reach Fairmount Park. New LED street lights, including shorter, pedestrian-level street lamps, will also be installed, and a new side-path will be built along Parkside between 53rd Street and Bryn Mawr Avenue.

Once the city kicks in its matching funds, that project will be fully funded, said Deputy Streets Commissioner Rich Montanez. The city hopes to finish the project in three to four years.

Another $900,000 from PennDOT will go towards the next phase of SEPTA’s Boulevard Direct, the new express-service route that currently runs along Roosevelt Boulevard between the Frankford Transportation Center and the Neshaminy Mall. SEPTA intends to one day extend that route to the Wissahickon Transportation Center, and the PennDOT MTF grant will help pay for eight bus plazas along the expansion.

There’s no estimate yet on SEPTA might expand the route. The city, not SEPTA, owns bus shelters in Philadelphia, and the $900,000 grant will only cover some of the total price tag on the project, said Dixon. While Philadelphia also has received $1 million in funding from the federal Transportation Alternatives Program, the project needs a few million more still.

The PennDOT-administered fund was established following the passage of Act 89 in 2013, which raised fuel taxes to fund infrastructure projects across the state. PennDOT awards the grants to municipalities and other entities on a competitive basis annually.

The Navy Yard also won $3 million to go towards replacing the “1898 timber deck structure supporting the main entrance” bridge on Broad Street, according to the MTF announcement. PIDC, which manages of the Navy Yard, declined to comment.

Another $1.5 million in PennDOT MTF grants will go to the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority to upgrade two container cranes. Provco Penrose, LLC also won $1.3 million to support “the transformation of a previous heavy metal shredding facility at 2600 Penrose Avenue to a proposed convenience store with gas and a separate restaurant facility.”

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