"This new approach to project planning and development expands the department's requirements for engaging local and planning partners by requiring collaboration with stakeholders before project scopes are developed. PennDOT Connects aims to transform capital and maintenance project development by ensuring that community collaboration happens early, and that each project is considered in a holistic way for opportunities to improve safety, mobility, access, and environmental outcomes for all modes and local contexts." PennDOT Connects Policy Statement
The full list of potential or completed neighborhood improvements appears below. Click a tab to read more about the improvement. Please remember that anything not yet fully designed or under construction is an opportunity for public input.
Fishtown residents adjacent to I-95 told us they wanted more greenery between the interstate and their homes. So PennDOT integrated planted bioswales into reconstruction plans for the now completed GR2 section between Palmer Street and Frankford Avenue. These bioswales help manage runoff from the interstate by reducing stormwater flows into the sewer system. With the bioswales now in place for several years, PennDOT is partnering with student scientists from Villanova and Temple universities to study how this Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) is performing.
The functioning of the GSI system thus far, along with the findings of the study teams, has influenced stormwater designs at the Girard Avenue Interchange and are helping guide design decisions for future I-95 reconstruction between Frankford Avenue and Race Street (GR5 and GR6). Meanwhile, nearby residents of the Fishtown neighborhood have taken ownership as a community of the landscaped spaces, decorating them for holidays and helping to keep them litter and weed free.
Section GR1 replaced the former Conrail bridge over Richmond Street with four smaller structures. The new Conrail bridges have created an attractive and safe new gateway for those traveling along Richmond Street.
The new bridges provide more daylight under the bridges and higher clearances on Richmond Street. The new design also includes better street lighting to enhance the experience of walking or driving under the Conrail bridges.
The tracks on all four of the new Conrail bridges will be carried on beams as tall as nine feet that will be highly visible to travelers on Richmond Street. These sidewalls have been painted blue to soften and improve their appearance. There is the potential to add architectural lighting and community-based signage to transform the bridge sidewalls into a community gateway.
The retaining wall that separates the Conrail yard from Richmond Street in Port Richmond stretches more than a half-mile from Sergeant Street north to Somerset Street. A prominent feature along Richmond Street, the new Conrail retaining wall is finished with simple decorative textures along its length to soften its visual impact.
Wave and bubble wall design
The wall design has a textured wave pattern, alluding to the nearby Delaware River, broken by a bubble-like pattern of circles. The bubbles appear wherever trees will be planted in wells that will filter stormwater, evoking the natural process of watering.
Mural and wall art locations
The wall features three smooth surface area breaks at the intersections of Huntingdon Street, Lehigh Avenue, and Somerset Street. These 100 foot-wide smooth areas are proposed as locations for murals or other art. The areas are lines up with the intersections of well-traveled streets to provide a clear view of the artwork for those traveling toward Richmond Street from nearby neighborhoods.
The wall is topped with unobtrusive metal mesh fencing designed to blend into the background. This fence is needed for safety reasons since the rail yard behind the wall remains active.
Delaware Avenue has been rebuilt from Columbia Avenue to Aramingo Avenue to accommodate three lanes of traffic in each direction, bike lanes, ten-foot sidewalks, street trees, and street lights. The vision for this section of Delaware Avenue was to make the road safe and accessible for pedestrians, transit riders, automobiles, and bicyclists. The improvements here will set the stage for future enhancement to Delaware Avenue outside of the project area.
Prior to I-95 reconstruction between Frankford and Columbia avenues, I-95 did not include noise barriers to dampen the sound of vehicles traveling on the highway. Near neighbors within a defined distance of the highway voted to construct noise barriers adjacent to homes, schools, and parks. The first barriers were constructed between Frankford and Columbia avenues. In 2015, property owners located to the north of Columbia Avenue voted to have transparent barriers installed during GR4 construction between Columbia Avenue and Ann Street. Property owners south of Frankford Avenue will have the opportunity to vote on design and materials for the noise barriers prior to construction of those areas (GR5, GR6).
Noise walls are in place between Frankford Avenue and Palmer Street. Noise walls between Palmer and Ann streets are currently under construction as part of GR4 and will be complete by 2023. Residents between Race Street to Frankford Avenue also have decided to halve noise walls installed as part of GR5/6 (2023-2029).
The relocation of the on and off-ramps at the Girard Avenue Interchange opens up the possibility for an improved gateway from the neighborhood into Penn Treaty Park. The northwest intersection of Columbia and Delaware avenues (above rendering, below actual) has been improved with new landscaping, public art, and lighting improvements that enhance the connection to the waterfront. This area will also include parking to replace that which was previously located in the median across from Penn Treaty Park. Designed in conjunction with the public art and lighting improvements of the Columbia Avenue Connector, this project will transform the pedestrian experience between Fishtown and Penn Treaty Park. The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation is a partner in this improvement.
Walls and space east of I-95
As I-95 was reconstructed between Shackamaxon Street and Columbia Avenue in Fishtown, new retaining walls and open spaces were created along the right-of-way east of the interstate to soften the appearance of the interstate, create landscaped open spaces for the neighborhoods and improve access to Penn Treaty Park.
The retaining walls on the east side of I-95 have been landscaped with plantings that screen the wall and create a green gateway to the neighborhoods. The open space areas adjacent to I-95 at Columbia Avenue will be landscaped as an extension of Penn Treaty Park.
Walls and space west of I-95
As I-95 was reconstructed between Shackamaxon Street and Columbia Avenue, new embankments, retaining walls and open spaces were created along the right-of-way west of the interstate. As on the east side of I-95, the goal was to soften the appearance of the highway and improve the pedestrian experience traveling to and from the neighborhoods.
New public spaces developed
The open space areas and embankments along I-95 are near homes in the Fishtown neighborhood. Landscape designs in these areas focused on balancing opportunities for community access, maintenance, and privacy for immediately adjacent neighbors.
North of Girard Avenue, Richmond Street has been reconstructed. When construction of the adjacent viaducts is completed, Richmond Street will carry the SEPTA Route 15 trolley, as well as cars, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians. The vision for this stretch of Richmond Street is to make it as attractive and green as possible, while remaining accessible to the neighborhoods on the west side of I-95.
The roadway will accommodate multiple modes of transportation with:
Innovative tree planting techniques
The project is using an innovative approach to planting street trees along Richmond Street that will help the trees survive in an urban environment. The trees will be planted in pairs, which has shown to increase their lifespan, and will be placed in concrete vaults to keep their roots from growing into underground utilities and ensure that the size of the trees at maturity does not interfere with trolley wires and poles. The vaults will be placed in the sidewalk with curb openings to allow storm water runoff to irrigate the trees. The type of tree selected has a high salt and drought tolerance. Although Richmond Street construction is substantially completed, street trees will not be planted until the southbound viaduct (Section GR4) is finished.
Energy-efficient lighting pilot test
PennDOT is working with the city of Philadelphia to implement a pilot project to test new street lighting options along Richmond Street. The pilot is testing the use of LED lighting technology in pedestrian-scaled lighting fixtures. Streetlights have been mounted on closely spaced, 15-foot poles that will illuminate both the road and the sidewalk. This pole height will eliminate the need to provide both streetlights and pedestrian lights.
The LED light fixtures reduce energy consumption and produce a white light that is more attractive than typical streetlights. The white light increases nighttime visibility and allows for the future use of colorful architectural lighting or other public art along Richmond Street.
PennDOT is creating rain gardens during the reconstruction of Interstate 95. A rain garden is a landscaped area planted with shrubs, grasses, and flowers that is located slightly below its surroundings in order to absorb rainwater. Rain gardens are designed to drain after storms and not hold water for an extended period of time.