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PennDOT re-configuring Richmond St. in anticipation of I-95 re-construction

For those who drive on or around I-95 in Port Richmond and/or Fishtown, it's time to face the inevitable. After decades of shin-splintering abuse from cars, trucks, and buses, the highway and its surrounding streets will have to be re-constructed. This construction has already begun on Richmond St, which is a popular highway detour and neighborhood street in Port Richmond.

PennDOT's ambitious efforts to improve Richmond Street are now underway. Elaine Elbich, PennDOT's project manager for the highway re-construction, says that Richmond St. will be made more practical to drive, bike, or walk along, and more beautiful to look at. She says the street will be widened to accommodate one auto lane in both directions, one bicycle lane in both directions, and a center turn lane. This work is necessitated by new access points to I-95 from Richmond that will be built during the course of the interstate's overhaul.

Elbich also points out that Richmond St.'s aesthetic appeal is a top priority of the transportation department. This includes enhanced lighting and the planting of new trees. There will also be an intriguing public art component to this, which the Port Richmond community insisted upon. Elbich says the community decided to showcase the fabled Cramp heavy metal shipyard building, which ironically was demolished to make way for a new highway interchange with Richmond. According to the project manager, PennDOT is working with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation to identify an artist.

PennDOT is currently in the very preliminary stages of its work on both Richmond St. and I-95. At the moment, they're removing the SEPTA trolley wire and boring through soil at the site of Conrail bridges that will eventually be replaced. As for the interstate, Elbich says that construction will commence in early autumn at the earliest. The highway lane closures that drivers despise might go into effect early next year, although they will be confined to overnight, weekend, and possibly off-peak midday periods.

Chuck Davies, PennDOT's assistant district executive for design, underscores just how hungry the highway is to be re-constructed. "There are long-standing safety problems on the highway connected to the geometry of interchanges,” advises Davies. Furthermore, the age of I-95 is a driving force behind the need for repair. Davies points out that some of Southeastern Pennsylvania's most severely structurally deficient bridges rust along 95.

The good news for motorists is that PennDOT will have multiple avenues of keeping drivers informed during the construction on Richmond St. and I-95. The department maintains a website called 95revive.com, which features primers on the various stages of the project, current construction, traffic conditions, and a construction newsletter. Also, drivers, or better yet passengers, can call 511 to receive traffic information. For those drivers who don't have hands-free phones, variable message boards, travel time readers, and other Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) will be employed on I-95.

Sources: Elaine Elbich and Chuck Davies, PennDOT
Writer: Andy Sharpe
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