Mayor Michael Nutter Announces Reconstruction Of South Street Bridge To Begin December 2008

Philadelphia, November 10 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced today that the contract for the reconstruction of the South Street Bridge has been awarded to Driscoll Construction Company in the amount of $67 million. The project will be financed with 80% Federal, 15% State and 5% City funds and will commence in December 2008.

“The South Street Bridge is a poster child for what happens when we do not invest in our cities and in our infrastructure,” said Mayor Nutter. “Today’s announcement represents essential investment in Philadelphia, and investment in the city’s infrastructure. This project is a reflection of the hard work, cooperation and compromise of the community, City and State employees, and it represents a new way of doing business in Philadelphia.”

General Information

  • The new bridge and viaducts (elevated roadways) will span approximately 2,000 feet. The roadway will cross over AMTRAK, CSX and SEPTA rails lines, and also pass under the CSX railroad high line. The project will include new pedestrian entrances to the University City Regional Rail Station and University of Pennsylvania’s Hollenback Hall.
  • The South St. Bridge is currently restricted to a 6-ton weight limit and it is rated as “structurally deficient”. It currently carries an average daily volume of 23,000 vehicles and the bridge is a popular bicycle and pedestrian route linking Center City and University City.
  • Demolition of the existing bridge will commence in early December 2008. The entire project is expected to take up to 24 months to complete. The project limits are 27TH Street to 34TH Street.
  • Since this project involves the complete replacement of the bridge, South Street will be completely closed to traffic from 27th Street to Convention Avenue. There will be no access to the entrance and exit ramps to the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) from South St. for the duration of the project.
  • The primary detour route for east-west traffic will be Walnut and Chestnut Streets.
  • City and Penn DOT officials strongly recommend the use of SEPTA rail lines for commutes across the Schuylkill River into Center City or University City.
  • The Streets Department thanks citizens in advance for their patience and cooperation during this project. For more information, please visit the project website:

The first permanent bridge across the Schuylkill River was completed in 1805 at what had been the western end of Market St., one-half mile north of South Street.

  • The first South Street Bridge was a draw bridge which was opened to traffic in February 1876. The structure consisted of five spans, together measuring 2,000 feet in length. The center draw section, constructed of iron, was 198 feet long and 32 feet wide, and the two main spans (flanking the draw) were also constructed of iron and were each 190 feet long and 48 feet wide. Extending outward from the two main spans were two brick viaducts consisting of a series of arches.
  • The current South St. Bridge which was also built as a draw bridge is 85 years old. It was opened for traffic on November 9, 1923.
  • The design phase for the new bridge began in 1995. Because of its prominent location the architectural firm H2L2 was commissioned to be part of the design team. H2L2 traces its heritage to Paul Cret who was the architect for the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The consulting engineering firm for the project is Gannett-Fleming.

Design Changes
Local community leaders, business owners and civic groups joined together to form the South Street Bridge Coalition in early 2006 to push for improvements to the design of the South Street Bridge. The Coalition has been committed to a design that reflects the increased importance of walking, bicycling, balanced traffic planning and contextual civic infrastructure in the City of Philadelphia.

In March 2008, the Coalition conducted a design charrette, funded with the help of State Senator Vincent Fumo, to identify potential changes to the bridge design. The charrette findings were refined, expanded and compiled by Wallace, Roberts and Todd Architects with the assistance of JZTI Traffic Engineers, in a report published in April 2008. After its publication, Mayor Michael A. Nutter requested the City Streets Department and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation conduct a series of meetings with the Coalition led by Marcia Wilkof and Jim Campbell in order to determine how to implement the report’s recommendations. The process has gone exceptionally well with all parties working collaboratively to improve the Bridge’s functionality and safety. The result of these efforts is a more balanced and pedestrian friendly design that serves the needs of all bridge users.

The following changes and commitments were agreed upon to improve the bridge design:

  • Vehicle Lanes – The number of automobile lanes was reduced from five lanes to four.
  • Crosswalk at Schuylkill River Trail – A crosswalk with a pedestrian activated traffic signal will be constructed to facilitate pedestrian and bicycle access to the Schuylkill River Trail. The traffic signal will be portal mounted above the roadway. The curb ramps will be widened to 6-ft. on both sides of the bridge to allow multiple bicyclists to simultaneous cross and access the bicycle lanes on the bridge.
  • Speed Limit – The posted speed limit for the entire bridge and elevated roadway will be reduced from 30 MPH to 25 MPH.
  • Advanced Bicycle Stop Bars – Bicycle stop bars will be advanced to allow bicyclists to get ahead of motorists for greater visibility and safety.
  • Lighting – Pedestrian style lights will be installed. The majority of the light standards will be sidewalk mounted at the curb. All light standards will include mounting brackets for future banner placement.
  • Signal Timings –Traffic signal timings have been optimized for pedestrian movements and safety.
  • Reflective Pavement Markers – Reflective pavement markers will be installed at the curve on the east side to improve roadway visibility.
  • Bicycle Lanes – Bicycle lanes have been widened as a result of the reduction in the number of vehicle lanes.
  • Sidewalk Surface – The sidewalks will be scored and tinted to resemble grey slate pavers.
  • Roadway Surface – The roadway will be tinted to resemble asphalt.
  • Guiderail – Decorative vertical elements will be added to the sidewalk side so that the railing appearance is more pedestrian friendly.
  • Towers – The design of the portion of the towers above the road deck (the “gazebos”) will be revisited.
  • Ramp Study – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has provided funding to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to conduct a study to analyze the impact of the Schuylkill Expressway ramp closures on the region’s transportation network.
  • Benches – Benches in the overlook area will be added as space allows.
  • “Green” Bicycle Lanes – The Department of Streets is seeking experimental approval to apply green texture to the bicycle lanes to enhance the visibility and safety of the bicycle lanes.
  • Bicycle Safe Inlets – Bicycle safe inlets will be provided for the bridge scuppers.

Other Project Design Features

  • Translucent barriers – Translucent “Quilite” panels will be installed at the electrified railroad crossings.
  • Pedestrian Overlooks – Two pedestrian overlooks are being provided on both the north and south sides of the bridge above the two river piers.
  • Decorative Lighting – Decorative illumination is being provided for the bridge structure. The lighting will provide a “shimmer” effect when viewed from a distance.
  • Sidewalks – The existing 7-ft wide sidewalks are being widened to 9-ft. in most locations and up to 15-ft. at the east side curve.
  • I-76 intersection – The intersection was redesigned to allow a larger staging area for pedestrians and a shorter crosswalk.
  • Signage – Reduced size (4-ft. x 4-ft.) roadway directional signs will be used to promote a more pedestrian scale.
  • Pedestrian Ramp and Stairway – A stairway with a bike trough and a ramp will be constructed to provide connections to the future extension of the Schuylkill River Trail.
  • Automobile Lane Width – Vehicle lane widths were reduced to 10.5-ft from the highway design standard of 12-ft.

Detour Details

  • South Street will be completely closed to traffic from 27th Street to Convention Avenue. The Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) exits and entrance ramps at South Street will also be closed throughout construction.
  • Automobile, bicycle and pedestrian traffic will be detoured to Walnut and Chestnut Streets.
  • City and Penn DOT officials strongly recommend the use of SEPTA rail lines for commuting if traveling across the Schuylkill River into Center City or the University City area.
  • The Streets Department recently completed traffic signal upgrades in the affected area to improve traffic movements during the closure. A total of 32 signalized intersections along Market Street from 17th Street to 38th Street, Chestnut Street from Schuylkill Avenue to 38th Street and Walnut Street from
    Schuylkill Avenue to 38th were upgraded. The new equipment includes interconnected signals and traffic cameras so that signal timing can be changed from a remote location.
  • Grays Ferry Ave. from Bainbridge St. to Washington Ave. is presently being milled and resurfaced and manholes fames are being reset to facilitate the additional traffic expected during the bridge closure.
  • Traffic Signal equipment at 34TH Street and Grays Ferry Ave. will be upgraded by December 1.

Next Steps
Meetings are continuing with The City of Philadelphia Department of Streets, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the South St. Bridge Coalition to address issues related to the detour and to design a process for considering changes to the portion of the towers (the “gazebos”) above the road deck, which have been identified as a safety concern by members of the community.

Posted in Mayor's Press Releases, Press Release

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