The reason for the delay on Race Street Connector’s north side

Wondering why work hasn’t begun on the north side of the Race Street Connector project that links Old City to the Race Street Pier?

First, there was money, but no permit. Now, there’s a permit, but no money.

Take heart, says Delaware River Waterfront Corporation Vice President Joe Forkin: “We’ve got a few good leads” on some grants.

The details:

Back in February 2012, the DRWC – the quasi-city agency that oversees both the city’s long-range plans for the waterfront and the development of the publicly owned parcels there – was psyched about a $1.1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Communities Transportation Initiative that would cover the costs of pedestrian and cyclist improvements on the north side.

But work could not begin immediately, because all of the necessary permits and permissions from city streets, PennDOT, The Federal Highway Administration and the Delaware River Port Authority weren’t in place. DRWC hoped to have them by the end of 2012, but negotiations with DRPA, which controls the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and related properties, were especially complex.

An agreement has been reached, Forkin said. But unfortunately, by the time that happened, the $1.1 million grant had already expired.

Normally, Forkin said, not meeting a grant’s deadline doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker; extensions are given for good reasons. But in this case, the entire grant program was going away, so the state awarded the grant to another entity before the program became defunct.

The south side of the Race Street Connector project linking Old City to the Race Street Pier opened  two years ago. There was never a plan to open both sides at once, because the multi-agency jurisdiction and the physical realities involved with crossing traffic ramps make the north side innately more complicated.

DRWC recently received a $5 million grant from the William Penn Foundation, but this money is tailored specifically to other projects and can’t be used for the North Side of Race Street, Forkin said. A William Penn grant did help pay for the existing south side connector.

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