- Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. are developing plans to reconnect the Chinatown community divided in 1991 by the Vine Street Expressway, according to a press release Wednesday.
- The Chinatown Stitch project will look at how to “cap” the expressway, also known as Interstate 676, from Broad Street to 8th Street and Callowhill Street to Race Street. The cap would cover the highway and be used for parks, open spaces and commercial or residential development.
- “After more than three decades of harm and displacement caused by the Vine Street Expressway, the Reconnecting Communities grant is a beacon of hope for the Chinatown community,” PCDC Executive Director John Chin said in a statement.
The $4 million planning project includes $1.8 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program and $2.2 million in matching funds from the city, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and local donors. The Philly Voice reported that officials hadn’t estimated the project’s total cost but said capping one city block may cost $25 million to $30 million.
Chinatown residents have largely opposed the Vine Street Expressway since it was first proposed in the 1960s, according to the city. After its completion in 1991, “the expressway intensified the social and economic disconnect between the Chinatown and Chinatown North neighborhoods,” the press release said. According to a news report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Chinatown residents have lived with noise and air pollution, dangers to pedestrians on the highway's busy feeder streets, and a lack of accessible, outdoor public spaces.”
Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability “will lead this important work to repair historic harms caused by the highway construction, which physically divided Chinatown and heightened traffic safety and environmental justice issues,” said Mike Carroll, deputy managing director for transportation, in a statement.
The city will carry out the planning project in two phases. The first phase will gather community input to determine guiding principles and identify potential capping locations, types and preferred uses. The second phase will develop possible designs based on input from phase one.
Philadelphia aims to start construction in 2028, depending on funding and project complexity, the press release said.
The city will start building another highway cap, an 11.5-acre park over Interstate 95 at Penn's Landing, this spring. The project was originally announced in 2017, with construction set to begin in 2021 and finished by 2026, but it was delayed for multiple reasons. Officials have not announced a new expected completion date.
The Chinatown Stitch is one of the 45 projects receiving a total of $185 million in RCP funding, the U.S. Transportation Department announced last week. The Reconnecting Communities Program aims to restore connections between communities that highways and other transportation infrastructure have severed. The spending is part of a $1 billion investment funded over five years under the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law.