PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s back to the drawing board for the Streets Department as it makes plans to rebuild the MLK Jr. Bridge. The Art Commission says they want a plan that ensures bicyclists and pedestrian safety. It was the topic of an hour-and-half-long public meeting Wednesday.
“If the city is serious about this, they need to begin a real process where there are many seats at the table and everyone who is a stakeholder gets a say,” Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia Policy Director Randy LoBasso said.
That includes every biker, walker and runner who uses MLK Drive near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Before it was closed to vehicle traffic prior to the pandemic, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia says it was one of the most dangerous streets in the city. But now, the drive is a go-to right-of-way for bicyclists and pedestrians into Fairmount Park.
As the city is preparing to rebuild the bridge, bicycle advocates like LoBasso are making sure they have a say in what happens.
“So many people have come out to Zoom meetings to express how they feel about this,” LoBasso said, “and to express disapproval in the original concept that I think the city, at this point, has to listen.”
The current $12 million plan by the Streets Department is to rebuild the bridge with three lanes of traffic and a 10-foot section for bikes and pedestrians.
In a public meeting with the Arts Commission, the Streets Department acknowledged the roadway’s pitfalls.
“One of the greatest needs that we found was that the crossing for bicycles and pedestrians was, of the existing structure, was really unacceptable,” Darrin Gatti, chief engineer with the Streets Department, said.
The Streets Department presented a revised plan that says if the use of the roadway changes, a vehicle traffic lane could be reduced, but in Wednesday’s Art Commission meeting, there were calls to finalize the plans before anything is approved.
“What’s the point of putting first approval on this if we all think it’s going somewhere else?” Alan Greenberger with the Art Commission said.
In the end, nothing was approved.
When a plan is approved, construction could begin as soon as summer 2022 and construction could take two years.