By Jim Melwert

By Jim Melwert

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Work gets underway today on the Walnut Street Bridge over the Schuylkill River.

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Today, the first phase will have the north sidewalk and the right lane of the one-way street closed.  And drivers who use the bridge might as well get used to three lanes.

This is the section of Walnut Street from 23rd to 30th Street, currently it’s four traffic lanes, a bike lane and eight-foot sidewalks.

The construction will keep the bike lane, take out one of those car lanes, and widen the sidewalks to 12-feet.

Also, the large over-head signs over Walnut Street that direct traffic to the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) will be replaced with smaller signs along the side of the street.

All this, designers say, is an effort to calm traffic, and make it feel less like a highway. They say that will make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Pedestrians welcome the idea.

“Once people get past 23rd Street, it’s like they’re on the highway — already on I-76 — so I do think it’s a good idea.”

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They say something is needed as drivers just go to fast over the bridge.

“Sometimes people get in a bit of a rush.  Put it like that.”

Drivers, though, don’t like it.

“Too much traffic is going on down here.  I wouldn’t do that.”

Motorists question removing a lane in an already congested area.

“Our roads are so small. It’s always difficult during rush hour getting back and forth to work.”

The work, which is expected to take seven months, is funded by money from the federal stimulus program.

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