New Plan For Philly: Tear It Up And Start Again


Philadelphia Beach at last.

There’s no hiding the fact that like many of her residents, the city of Philadelphia is short on cash. The mayor has closed fire companies. The new superintendent of schools says we need to close three dozen schools and start again with fewer. It makes sense. In a recession you want to do better with less, right? Well a recent entry into a city planning contest suggests we take the same approach with our highways: knock ‘em down and start again with fewer.

The winning entry in the 2013 Ed Bacon Student Design Competition, according to City Paper, is called, “SHIFT: Smart Hub Infrastructure for Tomorrow” and was created by students at Cornell University. It envisions removing I-76 on the west side of the Lower Schuylkill between Vine St and Grey’s Ferry Avenue (by 30th St Station and the Cira Center) in favor of a loop highway around the city and parts of the suburbs. Other roads in the area and increased public transportation would take the place of the stretches of highway they remove.

Meet us after the jump for more highway robbery.

Sometime ago we covered the idea of doing this with I-95 on the city’s east coast, which we pointed out would give us the benefit of having a real waterfront, instead of a strip of piers separated from Old City by a gigantic concrete trough. The point of such a radical change would be to free up space in the city that isn’t being used as well as it could be. Instead of the huge exposed Amtrak train yard along 32nd St, we would have an underground train yard covered over with shops, housing, and parks that lead down to a (hopefully clean) Schuylkill.

The plan includes underground roadways and train tracks, a wide pedestrian bridge over the river between Center City and West Philly, a public boathouse, and a shopping arcade along the river’s west bank.

Think it sounds great but a little unrealistic? The you might dig the winner for most-realistic here. The change would be drastic, but major cities have seriously altered their aging highways with more modern infrastructure, and this plan fits perfectly into the Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s mission of reviving the Lower Schuylkill as a vital part of the city.

It’s not like traffic could get much worse on 76 anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/chuckt808 Chuck

    Oh how I would love to see some progressive urban renewal like this but the last time I got excited about a project that was supposed to usher in a new era for the city we ended up with the bronanza that is Xfinity Live.