Ask Benny: Will the South Street bridge ever be fixed?

Dear Benny,
I walk across the South Street Bridge every day on my way to Penn and I have to say it’s in a pretty sorry state. Not only is it incredibly rusty, but chunks of it periodically fall onto the Expressway below, and every time there’s heavy traffic, it shakes. When is the city going to get its act together and repair this vital connector between the campus and Center City?
—Scared to cross

Dear Concerned Commuter,
The South Street Bridge has had a long, if somewhat bumpy, history. Built in 1923, the bridge was at the vanguard of technology in its day, with a drawbridge and cables for trolley service.

Since then, the bridge has fallen on hard times. Just be thankful you’re walking across it every day, not riding a bicycle. We’re told that on two wheels the patchwork of metal grates and plates that passes for a roadway is at best uncomfortable, at worst hazardous.

The good news is that there’s a plan afoot to fix the bridge. Even better news is the fact that most of the $40 million projected price tag will be paid by the federal government and the state. The bad news is that even with the money in place, work isn’t slated to begin until 2007.

That, says Joe Syrnick, the city’s chief engineer and surveyor, is because of the complexities of rerouting all the water, cable and electrical lines attached to the bridge.

Until then, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation will continue to raise funds for an ADA-compliant pedestrian and bicycle access ramp connecting the bridge to the southern end of the Schuylkill River Park. The short answer to your question is that you have a long wait ahead, but your patience will be rewarded—someday—with a shake-free commute.

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Originally published on January 13, 2005