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Race Street Connector debut a sign of movement on vast Delaware River waterfront plan

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) is embarking on an ambitious plan to make it easier to get to and from the Delaware River. To do this, they have identified three connector streets that will receive bicycle, pedestrian, lighting, and artistic improvements. These streets are Race and Spring Garden Sts., and Columbia Ave. On Thursday, DRWC will unveil the enhanced sidewalks, lighting, and artwork along Race St.

One of the most eye-catching changes to the Race St connector beneath I-95, which runs between Columbus Blvd. and 2nd St., will be a 24-hour-a-day projection of the Delaware river on four LED screens. These screens will be hooked up to cameras along the river, which will capture every wave, boat, and aquatic animal, and be able to shift on account of lighting conditions. Tom Corcoran, president of DRWC, explained that this will be a technique to help bridge the gap between the river and the rest of the city. This river projection is the product of artists Richard Torchia and Aaron Igler, and was the winning entry in a competition by the city's Office of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy.

Corcoran says that other updates to this section of Race St. include the installation of colorful "high-impact" lighting, the widening of sidewalks to better suit pedestrians, a more navigable intersection with the I-95 entrance, and the striping and painting of a bicycle lane on the north side of the street. The lighting and sidewalk improvements will be on display starting this week, while the roadwork and bicycle lane will be part of a second phase of work to be completed later. All of this is part of Corcoran’s dream to make Race St. an inviting, not intimidating, conduit to the Delaware River via foot, bike, or car.

While Corcoran is elated at the work being done with the Race St. connector, his vision extends beyond one street. The next connector between the river and the rest of the city that his corporation plans to improve is Columbia Ave., which leads to Penn Treaty Park and the river. Not wasting any time, this project is being done on a "rush basis," says Corcoran. This effort is a collaboration with PennDOT, and involves plenty of consultation with Fishtown neighborhood groups over artistic elements that capture the unique qualities of the neighborhood.

Similarly, the Waterfront Corporation plans to work with the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association (NLNA) to make the Spring Garden St. connector to the Delaware River more bicycle and pedestrian amenable, more luminous, and more artistic. Corcoran gives Spring 2012 as a probable start date for this. Another element of this project may be a push to get SEPTA to increase service frequency on routes that use Spring Garden St., including the Routes 25 and 43. Corcoran intimated that DRWC will make an effort to lobby for increased bus service, along with light rail service in the median of Columbus Blvd. in the coming decade.   

Source: Tom Corcoran, DRWC
Writer: Andy Sharpe

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