Is Future I-95 Park Worth Federal Funding?

We reported a few weeks ago about the proposed park over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard in Penn's Landing, and proponents have made it very clear as to how important a gesture of this scale is for both connecting the city to the waterfront and also serving as a visual gateway to the waterfront, one that is very much needed.  Large scaled gateways are visual markers for both tourists and citizens alike, just take for example our own Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a powerful procession leading from the City to the Park.  It also seemed like back then, the government had no problem tearing down neighborhoods for the sake of establishing and urban identity for our city.  In this case we are not asking to displace residents, only simply to mask the transportation eyesore that is I-95, and help transform the perception of Philadelphia residents' from thinking of the waterfront as a hard to reach not so desirable urban island to a cultural oasis full of opportunity and possibilities.

In this most recent push for a large scale public works project, the concern is not what existing structures or people need to be displaced or even the actual engineering of the project, It's a money issue.  A problem many of us are all to familiar with.  PennDOT experts say building the eight-acre park over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard from Walnut to Chestnut street would not be an issue for engineers and construction crews.  District 6 Engineer in charge of Design Chuck Davies doesn't think the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation would have much trouble getting a permit to build the structure that would allow people to walk from Front Street to the riverfront or hang out in-between. PlanPhilly reports that, justifying  the expense of transportation dollars for the highway's effect on the waterfront is going to be the central task.  The separation of a city from the waterfront is not commonly recognized as being a problem that requires mitigations.

The other problem with facing the project is fact that the partial cap currently in place still has a few decades of life left before it should need to be replaced, and the federal government will not provide transportation funds to replace the partial cap until needs to be replaced.  It is also not yet know whether or not the existing cap can be incorporated into the design of the new bridge.  The Central Delaware Master Plan calls for a much shorter timeline for the completion of the Penn's Landing project, expecting it to happen within 10 to 15 years, well before the current structure would need replacement. All in all the organizations biggest challenge will be to convince those in charge of federal money that there really is a connectivity problem, regardless of the many existing streets that lead to the waterfront.

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