Feds to Help Philly Reimagine Vine Street Expressway

The city is one of four winners of the Every Place Counts Design Challenge. Philly will get a design session with the Department of Transportation to focus on I-676.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announces Philadelphia as one of the winners of the "Every Place Counts" design challenge.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announces Philadelphia as one of the winners of the “Every Place Counts” design challenge.

Philadelphia is one of four cities to win the U.S. Transportation Department’s “Every Place Counts” design challenge. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was on hand for the announcement at 10th street above the Vine Street Expressway, as was Mayor Jim Kenney and other community leaders.

In addition to Philadelphia, three other cities won the competition: Spokane, WA; Ramsey County, MN; and Nashville, TN. These cities will each get a Department of Transportation-hosted design session that combines the voices of elected officials, urban planners, designers, and members of the affected communities. Philadelphia’s session will focus particularly on issues related to the Vine Street Expressway.

In his remarks, Mayor Kenney said that the Vine Street Expressway, which connects I-95 and the Schuykill Expressway, splits three communities: Chinatown, the Callowhill District, and the Drexel School of Medicine Hahnemann University Campus. Kenney also mentioned that hundreds of K-8 students have to cross Vine Street to get to Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church and School and the FACTS Charter School. Additionally, the highway disrupts pedestrian traffic to public spaces.

Foxx, who has worked to bring attention to the effects that urban highways have had on marginalized communities, said that “infrastructure is the thread that connects America.”

Foxx said that the “Every Place Counts Initiative” was established to “draw attention to the elements of design that can restore connections between communities.”

The Vine Street Expressway was constructed in the late 1980s and early 90s. It was met with much criticism from community groups, especially the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.

“Today there is a path forward that lays a strong foundation for the potential to re-connect neighborhoods, address the disinvestment, and focus on residents and not commuters,” said John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. “Today is not a victory by any means, but it is a beginning for many possibilities.”

Work on the project began immediately after the announcement with a roundtable discussion convened by Foxx at the Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church and School. Members of the community and elected officials were present and shared their thoughts on what issues should be addressed. Philadelphia’s official session with the Department of Transportation will convene on July 14th-15. In addition to the planning session, the city will receive on-site technical assistance from the Department and design experts.

“The hard work is frankly ahead of us,” said Foxx. “But the exciting thing is that you are going to be on the front lines of re-imagining American infrastructure as connective tissue.”