Mayor Kenney to Propose $90M for Park Over I-95

The plan is to cap I-95 on between Chestnut and Walnut and create a green space. More than half the funding would come from the state and private funds.

I-95 park model

A model of a proposed I-95 park from a 2014 study

Mayor Kenney will propose the city budget $90 million toward a program to completely cap I-95 in Center City between Walnut and Chestnut streets and turn it into a park connecting downtown with the waterfront. PlanPhilly first reported the proposal.

“I grew up in a neighborhood where literally thousands of homes were taken to build I-95,” Kenney told the site. “Thousands of families displaced and houses torn down. It was a very traumatic experience. We lost a whole segment of our history that we’ll never get back, for a superstructure that will never go away. It’s time to mitigate that intrusion and to cap it.”

Kenney’s budget address is Thursday. PlanPhilly says he will propose the city spend $15 million a year for six years on the park that would be placed over I-95. State and private funds would fund the rest of the project, budgeted for $225 million. A 2014 study released by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation said a $250 million park would return $1.6 billion in economic growth over 25 years, as well as 2,400 permanent jobs.

Activity at the waterfront in Center City has boomed in recent years. Spruce Street Harbor Park is an unmitigated success, while the Race Street Pier attracts visitors as well. But the current parks over I-95 — between Sansom and Chestnut, and between Dock Street and Delancey Street — are almost always empty. (Benches were even removed last summer at the park between Dock and Spruce streets.) If the new park over I-95 between Chestnut and Walnut is to be a success, it will have to give people in the city some reason to visit it. The success of SSHP — generally empty before its rebranding — shows this is possible, of course.

Kenney told PlanPhilly Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Leslie Richards are behind the project.