PlanPhilly

Roadwork roundup: Summer transportation construction projects

Every once in a while PlanPhilly tracks down all of the entities leading transportation construction projects around the city. Since summer is an especially busy time for that work, we decided now is an appropriate time to catch up with SEPTA, the Philadelphia Streets Department, PennDOT's I-95 work, Amtrak, the Delaware River Port Authority and two unique projects: the Schuylkill River Boardwalk and the Dilworth Plaza renovation. Here is where each of those entities or projects stand.

SEPTA

West Trenton Line Track Separation - The West Trenton Line track separation is perhaps the largest construction project SEPTA is working on at the moment. There SEPTA is restoring a third track from Woodburne to West Trenton stations so that SEPTA and CSX do not have to operate on the same tracks. If SEPTA were to share the 3 3/4 miles of track with CSX, SEPTA would have to comply with both the federally mandated passenger train safety system (Positive Train Control) and the freight equivalent. Doing so would be prohibitively expensive. Already the West Trenton Line Separation will cost a total of about $38 million with $10 million coming from a federal TIGER grant.

The construction should have minimal impact on commuters. 

Wayne Junction Station - SEPTA is still working on the Wayne Junction Station renovations. That work includes a station rebuild and ADA accessibility upgrade. The project will likely wrap up in the early part of next year.

"We're a little behind schedule, but it's an old station," said Bob Lund, SEPTA's assistant general manager of the Engineering, Maintenance and Construction Division. "There's been a lot of unknowns every time we open things up."

Lund said crews have run into greater deterioration than expected and unearthed foundations where they did not expect to.

Race Vine Station Elevators - Elevators are being installed at the Race Vine Station and will be completed towards the end of this year. 

Trolley Tunnel Blitz - SEPTA will shut down the Center City trolley tunnel for the first two weeks of August. Lund said that will allow for a "blitz" of work to the power system, tracks and stations. This work will be funded predominantly by Act 89. 

23rd and Venango Bus Loop - Crews are expected to start construction on the 23rd and Venango Bus Loop within the week. That $1.4 million project includes new bus boarding islands, passenger shelters, enhanced lighting, trash cans, recycling bins, improved signage and bicycle racks. The entire site will be made ADA accessible. Construction should take about 10 months, and bus stops will be temporarily relocated to the adjacent streets. 

Norristown High Speed Line - The temporary repairs on the NHSL are complete, but SEPTA will be doing track work on the remaining NHSL right-of-way each summer over the next couple years. This summer, customers will see some service impacts, but SEPTA will not have to bus passengers around any of the construction.  

Media Elwyn Line - This fall SEPTA will begin repairing the two viaducts (Darby and Cobbs Creek) on the Media Elwyn Line. Like they did with the Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL), SEPTA will replace the bridge timbers on these viaducts and do some structural repairs. During this construction, there will be some weekend busing. 

This $3.7 million project is just phase one of a much larger project to completely rehab and paint those structures as well as the Ridley Creek Viaduct. That work will likely go to bid in the late fall or early summer. 

Stone Arch Bridges - There are nine stone arch bridges in SEPTA's dated infrastructure inventory. The oldest couple date back to the 1830s, and all need to be repaired. The work has been divided into three bid packages. Two will go out to bid in the next couple weeks, and one will go to bid later this summer. After a project is bid, it usually takes about three to four months for construction to begin. 

"A lot of this goes to strengthening our core infrastructure, and it addresses the issues we raised in our realignment plan," Lund said. 

Act 89 Contracts - SEPTA has awarded seven Act 89-funded contracts totaling about $3.5 million to date. Another 13 contracts worth $45 million are under review, and four contracts totaling $20 million are out to bid. By the end of the year, SEPTA expects at least 20 construction contracts to hit the streets totaling about $150 million. 

These Act 89-funded projects range from roofing to substation projects, bridge work and fire suppression systems. The seven contracts issued to date include a boiler replacement, roofing at SEPTA's Fern Rock facility and substation projects. 

"[Customers] won't see them directly, but they go a long way to improving our reliability," Lund said. 

Levittown Station -  One of the bids SEPTA plans to issue this summer is for a Levittown Station upgrade. That project will make Levittown Station ADA accessible and increase parking there.

"When that project is [complete], it will be a better option or another improved option for commuters on I-95," Lund said. 

    • Fattah (middle) posed with SEPTA, neighborhood and city representatives for the ceremonial ground breaking
      Fattah (middle) posed with SEPTA, neighborhood and city representatives for the ceremonial ground breaking
    • West Trenton Station, Photo by Neal Santos
      West Trenton Station, Photo by Neal Santos
    • Renovated Historic Germantown Head House
      Renovated Historic Germantown Head House
    • Work on remaining portions of high level platforms remains
      Work on remaining portions of high level platforms remains
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PHILADELPHIA STREETS DEPARTMENT

Delaware Avenue Extension - Work on this Delaware Ave extension from Lewis to Orthodox streets began this spring and will be completed in fall 2015. This $10 million covers building a new road segment in front of the Tioga Marine Terminal, and since it is a new road, there are no impacts to traffic.

Broad Street Avenue of the Arts North – This $8.7 million endeavor will install about 50 light towers in the Broad Street median from Spring Garden Street north into Temple University’s main campus. The 50-foot-tall stainless steel columns will be illuminated from the inside and accompanied by new street trees and landscaping. The Streets Department will install one or two per block.

None of the towers have been installed, but work is underway. Crews are starting some of the necessary excavation and foundations are being built for the towers.

“During the day we’re expecting some lane restrictions, but most of the impact is going to be at night and on weekends,” said Darin Gatti, the Streets Department's chief engineer and surveyor. “We’re trying to keep the street as open as possible during rush hour.”

There will be some temporary road closures when the Streets Department has to trench across the street to lay electrical conduits. The project is scheduled for completion in fall 2015.

Center City Northeast Quad Resurfacing – This summer crews will start a $12 million resurfacing project in Center City, north of Market Street and east of Broad Street. The work will include bumpouts and signal upgrades. The project should be finished by the end of next year.

A similar resurfacing project led to complications in Society Hill, where residents were upset by the sidewalk adjustments necessary for ADA ramps. Gatti said the Streets Department has “taken additional measures on this project based on lessons learned on the last project.”

“Basically there’s more advanced notification to the property owners where ramps are being built, and we have a standard now for building ramps in brick sidewalks that we developed with the Society Hill Civic Association,” he said. “We’re making that our city wide standard.”

Willow Grove Ave Bridge – Last summer the Streets Department made some emergency repairs to the Willow Grove Ave Bridge near SEPTA’s St. Martin Station. This winter the department is going to begin a full, $4.1 million reconstruction of that bridge. The bridge will be closed for the duration of construction (about a year and a half), but access to the train station will remain open.

The steel beams that were put in for the emergency repairs will be taken back into the Streets Department’s inventory and used for other projects.

“The money we put in will basically be reused,” Gatti said.

The Streets Department will also save one of the stone abutments for the bridge. The historic abutment is “appropriate” for Chestnut Hill and matches the neighborhood’s aesthetic, so the Streets Department will dig out behind the abutment and reinforce it with concrete backfill so that it can be incorporated into the new bridge.

    • Willow Grove Ave Bridge corrosion, photo courtesy of the Streets Dept.
      Willow Grove Ave Bridge corrosion, photo courtesy of the Streets Dept.

41st Street Bridge – This is the third in a trio of West Philadelphia bridges over active Amtrak tracks that needed to be closed and (years later) replaced. Already the 40th and 42nd street bridges have been replaced.

The $11 million reconstruction of this bridge is expected to start sometime early next year. Once construction begins, it should take about two years. Amtrak is currently removing wires from the bridge to make way for the project, and the bridge – closed now – will remain closed until the reconstruction is complete.

“People have been waiting a long time for this one,” Gatti said. “The neighborhood has been very patient, very accommodating with us. We’ve had some very good design meetings with the neighbors. The community was involved in the selection of the design of the architecture of the new bridge.”

“This is going to be their bridge,” he said.

Citywide resurfacing – This standard resurfacing program, totaling $11 million, will move throughout the city and will mill, resurface, stripe and install ADA ramps. This is the federally funded resurfacing program. The city also has its own resurfacing program.

Citywide Intersection Modification – Funded by the Automated Red Light Enforcement (ARLE) program, this is a $1.2 million intersection improvement project. Four intersections (38th and Spruce streets, Ridge Ave and Cathedral Road, 10th Street and Passyunk Ave, and 58th Street and Baltimore Ave) will be reconfigured with curb bumpouts and upgraded signals to make them more pedestrian friendly. The Streets Department will get to one intersection at a time. They are just starting now and expect to be done by next year.

Manayunk Trail Bridge – The Streets Department is managing the Manayunk Bridge project – the project that will transform the old rail bridge owned by SEPTA into a bicycle/pedestrian trail asset connecting Manayunk and Lower Merion, Pa. The $4.1 million construction project just began and is expected to take about a year.

    • Manayunk Bridge before construction, Photo courtesy of Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
      Manayunk Bridge before construction, Photo courtesy of Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

Baxter Trail – The Streets Department is also overseeing construction of the Baxter Trail, which will connect Pennypack Park to Linden Ave and travel along the Delaware River. This trail project is expected to begin in the fall and be completed about one year later.

“Because of our expertise in construction, we’ve been tapped to help manage a lot of these trail projects and other types of projects that traditionally were not Streets Department projects,” Gatti said. “Since we do so much construction and have the expertise to help manage contractors, the city’s found it very beneficial to have us help manage these projects.”

Woodland Ave – This is one of three federally funded TIGER projects. Here, Woodland Ave in Southwest Philadelphia is getting a traffic signal upgrade complete with transit priority to help smooth the flow of trolleys. The $6 million project is underway. Crews are digging foundations for new signals. It should be complete this winter.

Bustleton Ave Signal Upgrade – Bustleton Ave north and Bustleton Ave south are each receiving a TIGER-funded signal upgrade. Together, that work totals $12.5 million. The work is just beginning now. The northern end of the project will be done in fall 2015. The southern end of the project will wrap up in spring 2016.

The new signals will be computerized, and the City will be able to adjust them for a number of different traffic patterns – like heavy traffic in one direction during morning rush hour and heavy traffic in the other during the evening commute.

Castor Ave Signal Upgrade – This is another signal upgrade project, but it is a companion project to PennDOT’s recent work to remove medians on Castor Ave. To remove all of the medians, the Streets Department will have to move some street signals and put them on overhead mast arms. At the same time, the signals will be upgraded. This work will start this fall and finish in fall 2015.

Haverford Avenue – This fall a $10 million intersection modification and signal project will begin on Haverford Ave. The work will take about 1.5 years and will upgrade signals and install ADA ramps to make the street more pedestrian friendly.

Stenton Avenue & Godfrey Avenue – Construction is about half complete on this $7 million signal upgrade and streetscape project. There the Streets Department is reconfiguring traffic signals and reconfiguring some intersections to make them more friendly. The project should wrap up this fall.

Torresdale Ave Gateway – Another streetscape project, this $1.7 million endeavor was sponsored by an area community group. The work includes streetscaping, ADA ramps and sidewalk reconstruction. It is scheduled for completion this fall.

Fox Chase Streetscape – This is a $500,000 sidewalk reconstruction project that started as a streetscape project in Rockledge, Pa. and continued into Philadelphia via Oxford Ave. A combination of funding from community groups, business associations and PennDOT grants is making this project possible. The work is underway and expected to be complete later this summer.

Second and Boulevard Crossing – This is a minor job to put in a new pedestrian crossing at 2nd Street and Roosevelt Boulevard. The signals are being tested now, and the project should be complete later this summer.

I-95 Construction

As part of PennDOT's massive "Revive 95" project to rebuild and widen sections of I-95 through Philadelphia, crews will be working on the Cottman Avenue Interchange Project (CP2) and Girard Avenue Interchange Project (GR1) (GR2). The Cottman Ave Interchange work includes reconstruction of southbound I-95 between Levic Street and Bleigh Ave. This summer PennDOT's team will pave 1.4 miles of this section and will complete construction on concrete decks and parapets on seven southbound overpasses (New State Road and Bleigh, Cottman, Princeton, Longshore, Unruh and Magee avenues) and are paving the southern limit of the project).

As part of the Girard Avenue Interchange Project, PennDOT is also paving the south side of I-95 from Girard Avenue to I-676. Like the Cottman Avenue Interchange section, this portion of I-95 is being reconstructed and widened to include a fourth travel lane.

SCHUYLKILL RIVER BOARDWALK

    • This spring a flood swamped the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, Photo by Tommy Leonardi
      This spring a flood swamped the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, Photo by Tommy Leonardi
    • Visible progress on the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, looking south from the CSX Bridge
      Visible progress on the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, looking south from the CSX Bridge
    • Schuylkill River Boardwalk, Photo Courtesy of SRDC
      Schuylkill River Boardwalk, Photo Courtesy of SRDC
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The Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC) is getting ready to unveil the completed Schuylkill River Boardwalk this fall. The expected completion date has been pushed back two to four weeks because of flooding this spring. Though there was no structural damage, the contractor did lose some tools and project materials. Remaining work includes pouring a few more concrete spans, installing railings and installing solar lighting - which will be mounted out of the flood zone. The Philadelphia Streets Department is managing the construction of this $17 million project. 

Next, SRDC is looking to the portion of the Schuylkill River Trail that will run along the new CHOP development. SRDC hopes to start construction on that segment in early 2015

DILWORTH PLAZA

Construction is still underway at Dilworth Plaza. Center City District (CCD), which is managing that project, reports that the plaza is still on track to open this fall. CCD would not reveal any more details about where the progress stands, but a spokesperson said CCD may have a big announcement soon.

    • Dilworth Plaza should be completed in the fall of 2014. Photo courtesy of Center City District
      Dilworth Plaza should be completed in the fall of 2014. Photo courtesy of Center City District
    • The fountain during the day. Echelman hopes visitors will interact with the fountain. Photo courtesy of Center City District Philadelphia
      The fountain during the day. Echelman hopes visitors will interact with the fountain. Photo courtesy of Center City District Philadelphia
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AMTRAK

30th Street Station West Plaza - Amtrak opened the new west plaza on the 30th Street side of 30th Street Station last November, but they've been working on the underground portion of that project since. Those underground structural repairs are wrapping up and the entire project is moving toward completion. 

30th Street Station Facade Restoration - Last year Amtrak installed a sidewalk canopy around a portion of 30th Street Station.  Amtrak spokesperson Craig Schultz said sometime this fall Amtrak will begin "in earnest" limestone restoration work. The work will likely cost about $60 million and take four to five years. There is an RFP out for the project now, and once the contractor is identified, more information will be available. 

    • The revamped west plaza has new lighting and an at-grade crosswalk
      The revamped west plaza has new lighting and an at-grade crosswalk

CSX

This winter the CSX-owned, 25th Street Bridge over Grays Ferry Ave was thrust into the spotlight as chunks of concrete continued to fall (also known as spalling) onto the roadway below.

Beginning in February, CSX worked with a Philly-based contractor to remove loose concrete (by hand) along both sides of the entire length of the 1.2-mile viaduct. That work was completed at the end of May. Crews then evaluated the exterior walls along the parapets and removed certain sections that posed a potential risk of loosening or falling.

CSX is now evaluating the drainage system on the viaduct to identify long-term solutions that will prevent water from seeping into the structure, thus cutting off the spalling at its source.  

DELAWARE RIVER PORT AUTHORITY

PlanPhilly caught up with DRPA in April to discuss ongoing and future bridge projects and again in May, when DRPA detailed how summer track work on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge would impact PATCO customers.

Walt Whitman Toll Plaza Rehabilitation - This $2.75 million project to replace existing concrete, asphalt and paving around the existing toll booth islands will likely begin this summer and run into next year. The project will also repair stairways from each booth into the below-ground access tunnel.

DRPA also plans to close Walt Whitman Bridge lanes intermittently to allow the required biennial bridge inspection. That inspection will take place in June and July.

Betsy Ross Bridge Resurfacing - Late this summer, DRPA will remove existing pavement, replace the concrete deck, mend concrete spalls, fix expansion joints and make drainage improvements on the Betsy Ross Bridge. Work should wrap up by the end of 2015.

Ben Franklin Bridge Track Work - In January, PATCO embarked on a two-year, $103 million project to rehabilitate the tracks that carry PATCO trains across the Ben Franklin Bridge. On May 30, PATCO closed the train tracks on the south side of the bridge in order to do the necessary overhaul. That work is expected to take two months in total, and when it is complete, PATCO will shift work to the north side of the bridge. A temporary schedule is available on the PATCO website.

During these phases of the work, two travel lanes on the Ben Franklin Bridge will be closed during off-peak hours and one lane will be closed during peak hours.

Ben Franklin Bridge Touchups - This spring DRPA planned to repair potholes and cracked pavement on the Philadelphia approach to the Ben Franklin Bridge. That works has been delayed. Now PATCO hopes to schedule some of the project in August, between track rehab outages. The complete scope of the project is expected to cost about $750,000

 
    • Benjamin Franklin Bridge - January 20, 2013. Paul Drzal.
      Benjamin Franklin Bridge - January 20, 2013. Paul Drzal.

About the author

Christine Fisher, Transportation reporter

From 2012-2014 Christine covered transportation, writing about everything from pedestrian concerns to bicycle infrastructure, bridges, trail networks, public transit and more. Her favorite assignments sent her bushwhacking through Philadelphia’s yet-to-be-cleared bike trails, catching a glimpse of SEPTA’s inner workings or pounding the pavement to find out what pedestrians really think. Christine also covered community news for Eyes on the Street, where her work ranged from food sovereignty to public art and urban greening. She first joined PlanPhilly in fall 2011 as an intern through a partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods website. 



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