Philly is on the move, whether it’s by car, bus, bike, subway, or foot. More and more people are riding SEPTA, bike lanes are slowly but surely being added to the streets, and we’ve finally made the switch from tokens to card payments. his city continues to be one of the most walkable in the nation.
But there’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to improving and building Philly’s transportation infrastructure. Here, we highlight six transportation projects that all have potential to be game-changers for this city and its 1.5 million residents.
A new neighborhood around an improved 30th Street Station
This $6.5 billion project led by Amtrak has set the bar high: Its overarching goal is to transform both 30th Street Station and the surrounding area into an innovative transportation hub and mixed-use neighborhood. How so? By building out 18 million square feet of new development and 40 acres of green space. Already, Amtrak is in search of a master developer to take on the big-time project.
But this project isn’t just about creating more green space and new buildings. A big portion of this master plan involves the actual 30th Street Station, which already sees about 4 million Amtrak passengers travel through each year—that number is projected to double by 2040.
As it stands now, the station and the surrounding area isn’t very pedestrian- or traveler-friendly, for that matter. Much of the planned changes directly involving 30th Street Station involve creating more public space and addressing the traffic issues. Loading will be changed, there will be a new bus station that doesn’t require crossing a busy intersection. And—fingers crossed—there will be a direct underground connection between the SEPTA line and Amtrak.
An easier way to get to and from the Navy Yard
The Navy Yard has been on the rise for years now, with more than $1 billion in both public and private investment. Today, it’s home to 1,200 acres, and houses some 150 companies. But to date, the thousands of employees who commute here every day have had to do so by shuttle bus or car.
That could change eventually, with a feasibility study underway to extend the Broad Street subway line from the final stop at the stadiums to the Navy Yard. The study (the second of its kind) kicked off in late 2014 and results are expected to be released this year, according to the Broad Street extension’s official timeline.
The estimated $500 million project could mean big things for the Navy Yard, among them turning the work-driven campus into a livable place. Building housing here has always been a long-term goal of the Navy Yard, and adding another transit connection between the area and the rest of Philly might just be the impetus to make that happen.
A safer and better trolley station
The 40th Street Trolley Portal at 40th Street, Baltimore Avenue, and Woodland Avenue is the city’s busiest above-ground trolley station in Philly. And it was arguably one one of the city’s most bland and drab stations.
That’s why University City District spent years raising $2.1 million to transform the portal into what it’s now calling the 40th Street Trolley Portal Gardens. With construction well underway, the “unsightly expanse of concrete” will be turned into a welcoming transportation hub with landscaping, public space with seating, and a Trolley Car Station restaurant.
Aside from beautifying the public space, the redesign should also help make the trolley portal safer for pedestrians and trolley riders. Before construction began, the concrete plaza—situated between three busy roads—lacked clear walkways, which often resulted in pedestrians darting across train tracks to catch the trolley.
A less deadly Roosevelt Boulevard
Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philly is notorious for being home to some of the most dangerous intersections in the nation. At times along the 15-mile traffic artery there are as many as 12 lanes, making “the Boulevard” one of the most heavily congested roads in the city.
That’s why the Boulevard is now the site of one of SEPTA’s high-priority projects. On September 8, SEPTA launched the new Boulevard Direct route, a rapid bus transit system along that includes bus-only lanes and eight stops from Neshaminy Mall in Bucks County to Frankford Transportation Center.
Although it’s only been open for a couple of weeks, studies show that commute times are expected to decrease by 30 percent.
This project is just the first effort to make Roosevelt Boulevard safer; it’s also one of Vision Zero’s high-priority areas, so expect to hear more about the boulevard’s future in the coming months.
More bike lanes and trails
Prior to taking office, Mayor Jim Kenney pledged to create 30 miles of protected bike lanes throughout city—at the time, Philly had zero. Today, it has funding in place to make this campaign promise become reality, and the city has at least one two-way protected bike lane and another one-way protected bike lane in University City. It may not sound like much, but Philly’s Complete Streets director Kelley Yemen assures that implementation of more protected bike lanes is underway—the hard part is figuring out which streets need these type of bike lanes and then getting the city and neighborhoods to agree to them.
But protected bike paths aren’t the only things on the wish list of the biking community. There are also longterm goals like Circuit Trails, which hopes to build out a 750-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian trails throughout the Philly metro region. And then there’s the Schuylkill River Trail, which has many more trails planned to connect the waterfront with multi-modal paths.
A connection to and from KOP
The King of Prussia Rail Line has been a long time coming—and there’s still ways to go. Spearheaded by SEPTA, this effort to connect King of Prussia with the Norris High Speed Line (NHSL) has been years in the making since 2012 and is currently waiting for a release of the Environmental Impact Study.
Proponents of the project say it has the potential to be a game-changer for the already booming suburb that’s just 20 miles from Philly, but offers no direct public transportation access. One study found that the rail line could add anywhere from $540 million to $946 million to the assessed value of existing real estate in the area, and encourage new development of up to 8 million square feet.
If all goes to plan, KOP could see an operational train by 2025.
A better connection to Philly’s waterfront
Rounding out this list of highly-anticipated transportation projects is the most recently announced capping of I-95 and Penn’s Landing. The $225 million project will put a park over the interstate between Chestnut and Walnut streets, and slope down over Penn’s Landing, which is currently a heavy-concrete public space on the Delaware River.
The effort has been many years in the making and is an effort to essentially undo the damage that I-95 created in the 1970s-1980s when it was built, cutting through numerous Philly neighborhoods and making access to the river much more difficult.
We’ve already seen some signs of construction work here with the dismantling of a pair of scissor ramps, but it’ll be a few more years until Philly sees the final product.