Just in time for summer, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation is starting, re-starting, or advancing a handful of construction, infrastructure and transportation projects to help connect Penn’s Landing to the rest of Philadelphia: Spruce and Callowhill will soon be two-way streets near the river, the Race Street Connector’s north side will get an uplift to match the south, and work on converting Pier 68 into a park could wrap up by Labor Day.
Complementing improved access to the Philadelphia waterfront will be better access to the Camden waterfront: the RiverLink Ferry will begin operating again soon. The DRWC recently finalized the legal details for assuming ferry operations from the Delaware River Port Authority. The RiverLink will start limited operations in mid-May during major concerts at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden and will begin a regular schedule over Memorial Day weekend, DRWC’s Vice President of Operations and Development, Joe Forkin, said in an interview with PlanPhilly.
Forkin also said that the DRWC will be looking to incorporate its small fleet of water taxis into the RiverLink ferry system. Back in 2003, the DRWC purchased three water taxis, which have gone unused since. Ten years later, the DRWC said it was planning to use the 22-passenger boats to run between four stops: the marina at the Penn’s Landing Basin, near the RiverLink dock at Walnut Street, next to Dave & Buster’s at Pier 19 and Festival Pier. However, Forkin said that the DRWC was taking a fresh look at the service, so plans may change. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all – the taxis have been “planned” to being operations “next summer” a handful of times already, but funding issues and more important priorities (the Spruce Street Harbor Park didn’t build itself, y’know) have delayed the launch.
CONSTRUCTION JUNCTION WHAT’S YOUR FUNCTION? BETTER ACCESS TO THE WATERFRONT
Pending PennDOT approval, DRWC will take its first step next month in a project to remove the underused “scissor ramps” that currently connect Chestnut and Market Streets to Columbus Boulevard. DRWC will make the eastern-most sections of Spruce Street and Callowhill Street two-way, allowing for more direct access to Columbus. “The improvements are impactful but fairly simple,” said Forkin.
To be clear: the Chestnut and Market Street bridges over I-95 and Columbus won’t be going anywhere, and the elevated loop used primarily by SEPTA as a bus turn-around will also remain. The project is one of the first steps in the Penn’s Landing Feasibility Study, which hopes to see a park capping I-95 and Columbus from Chestnut to Walnut.
The DRWC will start by converting Spruce into a two-way street from Columbus to 38th Parallel Place, which sits between 2nd Street and Front Street along the Korean War Memorial. Forkin said he hopes to finish work on Spruce Street by Memorial Day.
Once Spruce Street is finished, the DRWC will begin work on making Callowhill two way between Columbus and Second Street. If all goes according to plan, construction at Callowhill should finish by the end of the summer.
All told, the $1.4 million project will bring new turn lanes to Columbus, new traffic signal masts, and recalibrated traffic signals.
DRWC sees this as a prerequisite to removing the “scissor ramps” that currently allows northbound traffic to travel from Columbus onto Market, and to get from Chestnut on to Columbus. Assuming there are no major traffic issues, the ramps would be removed to make way for new development opportunities.
SLOW AND NOT-SO-STEADY WINS THE RACE?
It looks like the third time will be the charm for finishing the Race Street Connector, a streetscape, lighting and accessibility project along Race Street under I-95. The south side of the Race Street Connector was completed in 2011, but funding for completing work on the north side fell through, twice. But on Thursday, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission authorized $1.3 million in state funds to finally finish the project. Construction is expected to begin late summer or early fall. The project will widen the sidewalk for pedestrians and bicyclists, mount new lights and signs, add new planters and install metal fencing and bollards to match the south side.
PEERING INTO THE FUTURE OF PIER 68
Construction on turning Pier 68 into a $1.7 million park with a hammock grove, sloping lawn, picnic area and fishing area should wrap up late this summer. Pier 68 sits behind Pier 70 shopping center parking lot, next to the Walmart. Pier 68 will be the second anchor park for the DRWC’s plans to create a contiguous wetlands park along the water’s edge. Pier 53, which was turned into the Washington Avenue Green last August, was the first anchor.