An update on the Race Street Connector project

A mock up of the Race Street Connector light screen – a key part of the street improvements between 2nd Street and the waterfront aimed at making the journey from Old City to the river more obvious and pleasant – will soon be on display beneath the I-95 overpass.

At the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s executive board meeting last week, Vice President For Operations Joe Forkin said the mock up will allow staff to test the lighting – and allow the public to see the design. The screen both helps to point the way to the waterfront, and back to Old City, and addresses the concern that the area beneath the overpass is too dark at night, he said.

The screen is part of the first phase of the Race Street connector project, which is limited to the south side of Race Street. This portion, which also includes street trees and other landscape improvements on that side of the street, should be finished by late summer, Forkin said.

Forkin said changes have been included in the design to accommodate an outdoor terrace space for dining and performances planned by Philadelphia Live Arts & Philly Fringe, the live arts organization that purchased the red brick building at the south west corner of Race Street and Delaware Avenue that used to be a water pumping station.

Board Vice Chairman Jay Goldstein suggested that when Phase I of the connector project was finished, a sign should be posted letting people know that Phase II is coming soon.

Forkin said Phase II will likely be finished in a year or so. It is a more complicated project, funded with federal grant money that is funneled through the state and then to the city. The city will actually issue the RFP, Forkin said, but DRWC will facilitate the design and oversee construction.

Phase II, on the north side of the street, includes a pedestrian and bike path. It is not certain if there can be changes to the I-95 ramp to accommodate the project, Forkin said, but the DRWC is meeting with PennDOT, which, along with the city streets department, must ok the design.

Board members wondered if Race Street could also become a better river/neighborhood connection for people in cars. Forkin said “we are investigating” if Race Street could hold two-way traffic between Delaware and 2nd.

Board Member Alan Greenberger – who is also the deputy mayor for economic development and commerce – said making Race two-ways in that section would make a large difference.

He also said Callowhill could make a good two-way street. “It’s plenty wide enough,” Forkin said. “And there’s nobody there,” Greenberger added.

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