On the one hand, the Vine Street Expressway (aka I-676) is great. For those of us with cars who want to get across town quickly or get from the Ben Franklin Bridge to I-76, it's pretty handy. Except when there's traffic. Then there's the other side of the coin. The submerged highway cuts a gaping hole in the northern section of Center City. In the car, you don't notice it much. On foot though, it's entirely horrendous. Chinatown is effectively cut in half. Ditto the Logan Square neighborhood. Did we mention that it took fifty years to build and it was only completed in 1991? Yes, apparently urbanism wasn't much of a thing as recently as 25 years ago.
Five years ago we threw out the idea of trying to cap sections of the highway, to try to close some of the gap created by I-676. We mentioned that it didn't matter if the covers to the highway were parks or buildings or a combination thereof, we just wanted to do away with this:
In the time that's passed, we're no closer to a capped I-676, in fact we've missed a huge opportunity to cap more of it with the reconstruction of the crossings in front of the Free Library. But that's not dissuading the folks at the 5th Square, Philadelphia's urbanist PAC. They sent out an email the other day, encouraging people to attend a US DOT meeting on Thursday, July 13th, at 5pm, at 1101 Vine St. at the Chinese Christian Church + Center. The hope is that enough people will attend the meeting that want to see the highway capped, which will encourage the government to research the concept and could potentially lead to funding for such a project.
We acknowledge that this might be a bit of a pie in the sky hope, but there's certainly no harm in giving it a shot. Just think, your presence at this meeting could be part of the catalyst that wipes out one of the biggest sources of blight in Philadelphia! See you there?
Now, about that pesky I-95…