PennDOT engineer discusses progress of I-95 construction

Harold Windisch told residents what they should expect to see from the $212 million project in the coming months and years.

PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

PennDOT never said it would be easy … or quick for that matter.

But the state transportation agency’s decade-long effort to rebuild a 1.4-mile stretch of I-95 at the Cottman Avenue interchange has made significant progress in recent months, most notably the re-opening of a widened and resurfaced highway between Academy Road and Bridge Street.

During the bi-monthly meeting of the Tacony Civic Association on May 10, PennDOT Senior Construction Engineer Harold Windisch told residents what they should expect to see from the $212 million project in the coming months and years.

In the short term, contractors should start rebuilding southbound State Road between Princeton Avenue and Longshore Avenue at the end of June. They should be done by the end of July and will then resurface State Road.

Meanwhile, they continue to install a new 80-inch drainage pipe along Bleigh Avenue. The 1,500-foot length is about 80 percent complete. But for the final 300 feet, PennDOT will imminently close a portion of Bleigh near Milnor Street to through traffic. The closure will last about a month, Windisch said. Local deliveries, such as the 1,200 Waste Management trucks that use the street daily, will maintain access to the street.

Also, crews are relocating an 84-inch water main to allow for the reconstruction of the ramp connecting Cottman Avenue to southbound I-95. Because the ramp reconstruction is weather-dependent, it could be complete by the end of this year or early next, Windisch said.

The ramp is considered the final major work in the project, which began in fall 2009. But workers will then move a few blocks south to begin construction on a 1.7-mile portion of the highway from Levick Street to Bridge Street. That work is a separate $81 million contract.

In addition, PennDOT’s work continues in the areas of the Betsy Ross Bridge and Aramingo Avenue interchange and the Girard Avenue interchange. Detailed information about all of the interconnected I-95 projects is available via PennDOT’s 95revive.com website.

In other Tacony Civic Association business, City Councilman Bobby Henon told residents about developments in council’s fiscal 2018 budget hearings that will impact the neighborhood.

Henon said he has been working hard to relocate the 15th Police District from Harbison Avenue and Levick Street to an undisclosed location. The proposed building is closer to Tacony than the existing station, he confided.

“You’re going to see an announcement about that before the summer,” Henon said.

The existing police station also houses the 2nd Police District, Northeast Detectives and the command staff for the Northeast Division. But it has been repeatedly criticized in recent years for its poor condition. Meanwhile, community leaders in Holmesburg, Mayfair and Tacony have been clamoring for more police presence in their neighborhoods. With Henon’s backing, they circulated a petition in 2014 calling for the 15th to be split into two districts so their neighborhoods would have a dedicated allotment of patrol cops.

At last week’s meeting, Henon noted that getting more cops into the district would have a greater impact than changing the district’s boundaries.

As part of the budget negotiations, he advocated for funding to increase the number of police officers while changing the department’s eligibility requirements to encourage more people to apply for the force.

“We need more cops and innovative policing methods,” Henon said.

One of those methods is already growing in the 15th. The district’s bicycle patrol program has expanded from Frankford into Tacony. There are two bicycle cops assigned to Torresdale Avenue so far. Capt. Anthony Luca, the district commander, wants to assign more bike cops to patrol the avenue.

Henon also said the city will be using a new $5 fee on state vehicle registrations to fund street repairs. Typically, the city repaves 60 to 70 miles of streets in a year. The new funding will allow it to resurface about 130 miles a year. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.