February 28, 2023
Long-awaited plans to cap Interstate 95 along the Delaware River waterfront and construct an 11 1/2-acre public park at Penn's Landing will finally get underway this spring, PennDOT officials announced.
The $328.9 million project, led by PennDOT and the Delaware River Waterfront Corp, has been in the making for nearly a decade. The park will extend over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard, spanning north to south from Chestnut to Walnut streets. The amenities planned at the park include an ice rink, public gardens, memorials, play area, amphitheater, food trucks, cafe and a mass-timber pavilion.
Another facet of the project will be a 2-mile extension to the Delaware River Trail from Spring Garden Street to Washington Avenue, with an extension of the South Street Bridge to connect pedestrians and cyclists with the waterfront.
On Monday, PennDOT issued a notice to proceed to contractor Buckley & Company which will soon establish a protected work zone and begin preliminary construction activities. The initial project area will stretch over I-95 and run adjacent to the highway between Market and South streets.
The first large-scale construction activities, including demolition of bridge structures, will begin this spring following a public meeting with residents and local businesses.
After the project was announced in 2017, construction had been slated to begin in 2021. Several factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic and engineering hurdles, resulted in a 2-year postponement.
In the intervening years, project designer KierenTimberlake and architect Hargreaves Jones have released a number of renderings of the park, the grounds of which will incorporate several elevation changes.
The city's $90 million budget for the project is bolstered by funds from the state, the William Penn Foundation and a number of private donors.
During construction, lanes will be shifted on I-95 and the adjacent highway ramps, PennDOT said. Other travel restrictions also will take place on I-95 and adjacent surface streets, including Columbus Boulevard and Front Street during various phases of construction.
Details about anticipated detours were shared last year during a presentation at a meeting of the Society Hill Civic Association.
At the meeting, planners said the park's construction will include a series of regional and local detours — mostly overnight closures — that divert I-95 traffic onto the Vine Street Expressway and I-76 before reconnecting with I-95 near the Philadelphia International Airport.
Local detours will focus on Columbus Boulevard for the construction of the cap, moving traffic to Fifth and Sixth streets via the exit at Callowhill and Race streets, before returning on Spruce and Vine streets, planners said.
For the South Street pedestrian bridge phase of the project, detours will shift south. Traffic will again be directed along Fifth and Sixth streets via an exit onto Spruce and Pine streets, returning to Columbus Boulevard at Washington Avenue.
Once the park is completed, PennDOT and the Federal Highway Safety Administration will be responsible for its infrastructure, while DRWC will handle programming and site management. The city will own the land. The park is expected to generate $1.6 billion in revenue for the city, School District of Philadelphia and the state, the DRWC said.
The park was originally projected to be completed in 2026. An updated timeline has not been released.
The new park will be a complementary but separate piece from The Durst Organization's $2.2 billion redevelopment of land just to the north. That project includes 12 new buildings on two waterfront sites with a mix of apartments, retail space, a hotel and other new public spaces.