South Street Bridge to reopen Nov. 6

South Street BridgePhoto credit: Scott H. Spitzer 

The South Street Bridge will reopen to vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 6, more than one month ahead of schedule. City officials have planned a reopening ceremony starting at 3 p.m. to mark the occasion.

Closed by the City of Philadelphia on Dec. 8, 2008, the bridge has undergone almost two years of demolition and reconstruction. When Mayor Michael Nutter announced the rebuilding project in 2008, he called the bridge “a poster child for what happens when we do not invest in our cities and in our infrastructure.”

Originally constructed as a drawbridge, the South Street Bridge first opened in 1876, consisting of five spans measuring 2,000 feet in length. A more modern version of the bridge was completed in 1923. It was that version that withstood 85 years of traffic, population growth, pollution and basic wear and tear. By 2008, the bridge was enduring 23,000 vehicles a day and suffering from serious deterioration, with concrete chunks crumbling from the structure.

David Perri, chief engineer and surveyor of the Philadelphia Streets Department, says the reconstruction of the bridge is the largest and most complex project in the history of the Streets Department. “We are pleased,” he says, “that the new bridge will open more than one month ahead of the anticipated schedule, despite severe weather conditions and other unexpected developments.”

The $67.4 million project, however, is not yet complete. Still to come, Perri says, are pedestrian overlooks, a ramp and stairs that will connect the bridge to a future extension of the Schuylkill River Trail and four decorative glass-and-stainless-steel turrets illuminated by LED lights. The towers, says Perri, will be the “signature element” of the project.

Knowing that the closing of the bridge would affect the Penn community for many months, a working committee from across the University and the Health System developed a website to keep faculty, staff and students up to date on the construction. The site was designed to contain maps, detour routes and information about alternative transportation.

On Nov. 6, at the same time the city holds its bridge reopening celebration, the Penn Museum is hosting a “Green and Sustainable Day” for visitors, offering half-price admission to anyone who gets to the Museum without a car. The Museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the first 100 “green guests” will receive a refillable metal Penn Museum water bottle.

Visitors can prove they did not use a car to get to the Museum by presenting a SEPTA token or pass, a bicycle helmet or any form of identification with a home zip code within reasonable walking distance.

Originally published on October 28, 2010