PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – This Saturday brings a ribbon-cutting, and some major traffic relief for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. It’s the reopening of the South Street Bridge over the Schuylkill River, following a two-year overhaul.
Rina Cutler, the city’s deputy mayor for transportation, says city officials had worried for decades about the safety of the decaying 85-year-old bridge, but got nowhere in rebuilding it.
“This bridge was actually a poster child for government failure,” she said.
But Cutler says the project really got moving after City Hall began embracing the ideas of people who lived in the South Street neighborhood: “(They) really wanted it to be more pedestrian friendly, more bike friendly, and not be just a typical highway bridge.”
Jim Campbell, with the South Street Bridge Coalition, agrees.
“The concern in the neighborhood primarily was the bridge was (originally) designed to be a high-speed connection to the (Schuylkill) Expressway, rather than a good connection between Center City and University City,” he said.
But Campbell says the administration listened to their concerns, and the South Street Bridge that reopens Saturday will include wider pedestrian walkways and bike lanes.
“We’re very, very happy with all the improvements that have been made to the bridge,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Cutler says the rebuilt bridge opens to traffic a month ahead of schedule, and on budget:
“Getting it done as quickly as we could, as safely as we could, with the least disruption to the neighborhood as we could, and we could not be more excited about its opening on Saturday.”
The ribbon-cutting for the new South Street Bridge is scheduled for 3 PM Saturday, and the public is invited to party — on foot — on the bridge for a couple of hours. Officials expect to reopen it to vehicular traffic after 5 PM Saturday, including the ramps that link the bridge to the Schuylkill Expressway.
The new bridge will also include lookout towers, to give pedestrians breathtaking views of the city skyline. Those towers are expect to open by early next year.
The bridge carries an estimated 30,000 travelers each day in cars, on bikes, and on foot. During the nearly two-year closure, traffic was routed to the already heavily traveled Chestnut and Walnut Street bridges.
Reported by Mike Dunn, KYW Newsradio 1060.