By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A City Council committee today gave initial approval to plans by the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for a temporary pedestrian walkway over Convention Avenue.

The walkway is needed because HUP plans to demolish an old office building and put up a new hospital tower there.

HUP plans to eventually construct a $1.5-billion, advanced medicine building at Penn Tower, former hotel that HUP now uses for offices.

Two pedestrian walkways currently connect Penn Tower to the main hospital and to the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.   So, today, a City Council committee voted to approve HUP’s plan to build a temporary pedestrian walkway, to be used while the new hospital tower is being built over the next four or five years.
“Something has to be done to get patients, staff, (and) visitors safely from the original hospital to the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, so that’s why the temporary bridge (is needed),” says David Glancey, director of special projects at the University of Pennsylvania.  “So this is the very, very, very beginning of what will be kind of a long-term project.”

Glancey said HUP has not finalized its plans for the Penn Tower site, although officials have said the project could double the number of HUP’s patient beds.

Glancey said that because of safety concerns, simply going without a pedestrian bridge during construction is not an option:

“Just think of that area: it’s very congested, and the way the streets are configured, sometimes it’s difficult to walk across the street.  It’s just a difficult, congested area.  So the temporary bridge (will be) for our patients, our visitors, our staff to get from one part of the hospital to another in a safe fashion.”

HUP hopes to begin construction of the temporary bridge as soon as possible and have it complete by the fall.  Developers retained by HUP said the bridge would cost more than $3 million.

The Streets and Services Committee of City Council approved the bridge plans and sent the measure to the full Council for a vote, expected later this month.