By Melissa Komar
Community members and city officials came together last Wednesday afternoon at a groundbreaking ceremony to commence construction of the first phase of the Delaware Avenue Extension Project, which will extend the existing Delaware Avenue to Bridge Street.
“We’re here today to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for the exciting new project for Philadelphia, the Delaware Avenue Extension in Bridesburg,” said David Perri, commissioner of the Department of Streets.
Several organizations will be involved in constructing the first part of the road, which will be about 0.6 miles long, running from Lewis Street to Orthodox Street when complete.
“The bridge of the project was designed by the city’s own streets department, the roadway portion of the project was designed by the Philadelphia engineering firm of Urban Engineers, and the construction of this project will be completed by the Philadelphia-based heavy construction firm of Buckley and Company,” Perri said.
Perri was joined by Mayor Michael Nutter, City Councilman Bobby Henon and Delaware River City Corporation chairman and former congressman Bob Borski to celebrate what has been, according to both officials and community leaders, a long-awaited day.
“This has been a long day coming, especially for the neighbors and businesses of Bridesburg and the connecting communities, and this is here because of your persistence and vision and dream that congressman Borski had put in place a long time ago,” Henon said.
Although the main goal of the project is to relieve traffic congestion from Bridesburg and the surrounding communities, the road and the accompanying trail to be built alongside it will provide better access to the Delaware River.
“It adds as a connector to our most precious resource, and that’s our Philadelphia waterfront,” Henon said.
Borski, who is credited with the original plan behind the Delaware Avenue Extension Project, said “I-95 came along at another time and took the river away, and we’re here today putting another piece back. This is absolutely a game-changer for Bridesburg and for Northeast Philadelphia.”
Nutter thanked the residents of Bridesburg for their patience and involvement in the project.
“I want to thank the residents of Bridesburg and other community members once again, not just for their involvement, but their commitment, their dedication, their focus, their push to make sure that all of us do what we’re supposed to do. It is because of that input that we were able to push that much harder to get the necessary funding,” Nutter said.
The funding, according to the streets department, comprises 80 percent federal funds and 20 percent city capital funds, totaling $11.2 million.
Construction of the project began last week and is estimated to be completed by November 2015.
According to Darin Gatti, the Streets Department’s chief engineer, the completed road will include a 30-foot-wide cartway, a 6-foot-wide sidewalk on one side, and a 12-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle path on the other side with street lighting, landscaping, stormwater and water main facilities. A new bridge, spanning 160 feet, will be built over the Frankford Creek.
The project will generate about 100 construction jobs, according to the streets department.
Aside from relieving traffic from the surrounding area, Nutter said the road would improve residential life in the area, stating, “The road and the accompanying trail will provide a vital link in the city of Philadelphia’s larger bicycle and walking path network.”
Joe Slabinski, president of both the Bridesburg Business Association and the Bridesburg Community Development Corporation, recalled the initial idea for the plan long ago.
“This project was born out of congressman Bob Borski’s plan,” Slabinski said.
While the time to get to this point has not been brief, Slabinski is happy that the road is being built, stating, “We are thrilled that this is finally coming to the community and it means a lot. Everyone is extremely excited. It’s finally started, and everyone is moving in the right direction.” ••
Melissa Komar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.