How Philadelphia could reconnect Chinatown
Philadelphia officials unveiled three potential designs this week to reconnect Chinatown by capping part of the Vine Expressway after surveying residents.
Why it matters: The massive infrastructure project — dubbed the Chinatown Stitch — would replace unsightly overpasses with new green space, create development opportunities, and improve safety, city officials say.
What's happening: The city released an online survey for residents to weigh in on its plans to redesign and cap up to three blocks of the Vine Street Expressway, or I-676. The survey runs through Oct. 1.
- The city's goal is to finalize a feasible design in the coming years that meets the needs of Chinatown, which will depend on further surveys, studies, costs, funding and other issues, officials said at a news briefing.
Catch up quick: The expressway has cut through Chinatown since it was completed in 1991, dividing mostly businesses south of the highway and residential buildings to the north.
- Community leaders have been calling on the city to address the negative impacts of a highway splitting their neighborhood in half ever since.
Most cost-conscious: Capping two-and-a-half blocks of the expressway, which would help reduce costs by avoiding state requirements to make the cap a tunnel if it extends all three blocks between 13th and 10th Streets.
- This option has the fewest pedestrian safety improvements.
Most green: Capping all three blocks between 10th and 13th.
- This option includes the greatest number of green spaces of the three designs but higher costs and more construction delays than the first option.
Most creative (and expensive): Capping three blocks and shifting westbound expressway lanes south to run alongside the eastbound lanes.
- This option includes the most pedestrian improvements and construction delays.
1 cool thing: All three designs include links to a potential elevated park on the unused railway viaduct nearby, that cuts through North Philly.
Reality check: The city does not have full cost estimates for the project designs yet, officials said.
- Yes, but: Infrastructure costs related to capping the highway could run at least $25 million per block, which doesn't include other amenities, such as landscaping.
What they're saying: The goal of the project is to not only reconnect Chinatown but ensure that residents, workers and small businesses can benefit, said John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, which has partnered with the city on the project.
What's next: The city is hosting meetings on the designs this month.
- Construction could start in 2028.
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