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Mayor Jim Kenney’s 2018 budget: 6 important takeaways for Philly

From the city’s infrastructure to development to housing

In a speech to City Council yesterday, Mayor Jim Kenney laid out his $4.4 billion budget for 2018, highlighting significant changes to the city’s infrastructure, health and human services, and other various government agencies funds. The total budget is an increase from last year’s $4.2 billion.

You can view the full budget via the city’s interactive webpage, but here are six important takeaways related to Philly’s infrastructure, development, and housing that you should know about.

1. $90 million proposed to cap I-95

Reports emerged earlier this week that the mayor planned to propose $90 million to help cap a portion of I-95 between Chestnut and Walnut streets. In his address, Kenney said that the interstate has long been a “barrier to economic development.” Capping this stretch of I-95 with 11 acres of green space will provide Center City with easier access to the waterfront, he said, and is estimated to have a economic return of $1.6 billion over the next 25 years. Soon after Kenney pledged $90 million for the project, the William Penn Foundation committed $15 million and PennDOT said they would provide $100 million.

2. More housing solutions for the homeless

The mayor asked City Council to support just over one million dollars to create 83 units of rapid housing and supportive housing to help address the city’s rising homelessness rates. Rapid rehousing would support families who have become homeless by helping them move quickly out of a shelter into a community setting. Supportive housing is for people who have a mental illness or addiction. These new units would help the city become less reliant on costly shelter beds, the mayor said, and research shows that they have a 90 percent success rate in preventing a return to homelessness.

3. Investments along main streets

Another $25 million was proposed to spruce up the city’s commercial corridors. “We’ll work to reinvigorate main streets across the city,” the mayor said in his address. He pointed to efforts that are already underway, including the improvement of the “pedestrian experience” at South Street’s Headhouse Square, lighting up the Market-Frankford corridor, and increasing security cameras within various neighborhoods.

4. Improved road safety and infrastructure

The mayor proposed $174 million to repave Philly’s pot-hole-ridden roads. In addition, this will be the first time that the city budget will dedicate “significant funds” to Vision Zero Philadelphia, an effort to make Philly’s streets less deadly. Mayor Kenney said 100 traffic-related deaths occur each year. The funding go toward improving clearly-defined pedestrian routes and “enforcing slower traffic speeds to save lives” over the next five years, Kenney said.

5. Increased staffing for L&I

Highlighting the fact that 31 mixed-use projects are currently under construction (by our count, 26 of them are high-rises), Kenney’s budget will also invest in the Licenses and Inspections department by increasing staffing, both internally and externally. “L&I will increase demolitions and have highly-qualified on-call engineers to make recommendations,” the mayor said.

6. Proposed ordinance to kick off the Rebuild program

Mayor Kenney presented an ordinance to the council to get started on the Rebuild program, his $500 million program to revitalize the city’s parks, rec centers, playgrounds, and libraries that is partially funded by the Philly soda tax. The ordinance calls for the council to issue three $100 million bonds, each every two years.