Earlier this month, PennDOT announced that it had issued a “notice to proceed’ (NTP) to its general contractor to begin the $328.9 million project to create a cap over I-95 between Chestnut and Walnut Streets from Front Street to the Delaware River Esplanade.
The project is being financed with federal, state and city transportation funds, in addition to private philanthropic grants.
The massive project involves building a cap over i95 and Columbus Boulevard with a new park at Penn’s Landing on top of the cap, and a new signature bridge at South Street over both roadways. More information about the project is here
The Bicycle Coalition, Clean Air Council, East Coast Greenway Alliance and Feet First Philly submitted comments on the plans for this project in December 2019 and December 2021. We received a detailed response letter from PennDOT on March 8th and is summarized below.
- The CAP will be ADA accessible but not as much as we asked for. There will be an elevator situated proximate to Christopher Columbus Boulevard to connect the lower and upper levels and ADA access will be provided at the Delaware River Esplanade edge and along Chestnut and Walnut Streets and Front Street. PennDOT rejected our proposal for ramp alternatives because of fire truck clearances and space restraints. We are asking PennDOT if bicycles are going to be allowed in the elevator.
- Bicyclists will have access to a cycle track on the north side of Chestnut Street, but not a shared use path on the south side. We made the point that a north side cycle track does not provide unencumbered access to the park (which is on the other side of the street) and that the transition from the shared use path to the north side between a SEPTA bus stop and Esplanade is awkward, forcing people on bikes to cross two streets to get to the cycle track. We proposed that the sidewalk on the south side of Chestnut Street be widened and marked as a shared use path to accommodate both bicyclists and pedestrians and that the cycle track be placed on the east side of the Penn’s Landing Road to bring cyclists to Market St. Both proposals were rejected. The sidewalk on the south side of Chestnut will be for pedestrians only.
- There will not be a direct-cross CAP path for bicyclists. PennDOT rejected our request for this facility. Nevertheless, PennDOT’s letter stated that “bike circulation will not be physically restricted on the internal pathways within the park”, which is the first time that has been stated in writing.
- Bicycle racks will be provided. Racks will be installed along Front Street and Chestnut Street edges of Penn’s Landing Park and along the Esplanade and along the Delaware River Trail. It’s not clear how many racks will be installed or if they will be covered.
- Absorptive panels are being considered to address noise impacts on the Delaware River Trail that runs under the CAP. PennDOT rejected our proposal of a noise wall (like on the Scudders Falls Bridge) because sound reduction impacts might be less than expected and a wall would lead to utility conflicts. A lower concrete barrier is being proposed for the space between the roadway and the trail. Decorative and bright lighting will be provided under the CAP along the trail.
- Front Street will not receive more traffic calming. Front Street has too high of a design hourly volume (450) and a 25 MPH posted speed limit. Both these factors led PennDOT to reject our proposal that Front Street prioritize bicyclists and pedestrians and be turned into a shared street. However, each of those intersections will be designed as raised intersections with marked crosswalks and special paving treatments. If pedestrian and traffic volumes are high enough, PennDOT may decide to install a rapid flashing beacon or other similar measures.
- PennDOT intends to have the South Street Bridge provide full share access. In order to provide full shared access for bicyclists and pedestrians, The Stroll artwork will have to be relocated. The coordination effort is ongoing and the construction contract does include the cost of relocating the artwork. This decision will allow free and clear access on the bridge, which is a big improvement over what was originally proposed.