By Wesley Ratko
More than 30 people turned out to hear a presentation by the Philadelphia Streets Department Tuesday night on the proposed replacement of the bridge that carries West Willow Grove Avenue over SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill West rail line. The project is scheduled to begin in 2014 and close the bridge for at least a year.
Darin Gatti, chief engineer and surveyor with the Streets department, led the presentation, the primary focus of which was the collection of resident feedback about the project in general and on three proposed architectural options for the bridge electrification barrier. The current bridge features a gun metal grey barrier and a pedestrian walkway that is raised above the road surface.
The proposed bridge would bring the walkway more level with the road surface and feature one of three possible designs for the electrification barrier: cedar board, lightweight concrete or painted steel. Renderings of each option were displayed at the meeting.
Gatti said that without any serious delays, construction won’t begin until sometime in the spring, during which the bridge will be closed to traffic and pedestrians for a year. The train station will remain open. The project will cost $3.5 million.
Gatti said the design team welcomes feedback from the community about the look and design of the new bridge. The public comment period runs through November 16.
Bowman Properties president Richard Snowden referred the consultant to the Traffic Transportation and Parking Committee for ideas and information; Frank Niepold of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society offered the support of the community as well. Development Review Committee member Patricia Cove asked about the material the Streets Department intended to use for the sidewalk. Gatti said that while that has yet to be addressed, it would most likely be concrete.
“We don’t have too many options,” Gatti said. “We’re open to suggestions.”
One near neighbor asked about nighttime noise that construction will cause. Most of the work will be done during the day, but work on the SEPTA overhead wires just below the bridge can only happen at night when the trains aren’t running.
“As we go through the design process with SEPTA, we may be able to take advantage of some weekend [train] outages, but there’s not much we can do,” Gatti said. He added that unlike the heavier equipment used in the actual construction of the bridge structure, nighttime wire work would only be a “periodic droning noise.”