Update on Historic Tacony Revitalization Program

At the December 6, 2011 joint meeting of the Clean and Safe and Design Teams of the Historic Tacony Revitalization Project, we had a presentation by Chris Creelman, who is the chief of staff for Joan Krajewski and the treasurer of MARC, the Major Artery Revitalization Committee.  MARC is a nonprofit organization charged with making physical improvements to major streets and corridors throughout the Northeast section of the City of Philadelphia.  Mr. Creelman reported on the history of the Torresdale Avenue Project including its initial phase, which was completed in 2004-5 when the old Route 56 trolley line wires were removed along Torresdale Avenue with the tracks, when Torresdale Avenue was resurfaced and repaved.

In Phase 1 of the project, SEPTA renovated the bus depot in 2008-9.  MARC worked with SEPTA and funded the murals associated with the depot. These were funded with City of Philadelphia funds from a Restore Philadelphia Corridors grant funds obtained by Councilwoman Joan Krajewski’s office.  The project also placed pedestrian lights along Torresdale Avenue from Tyson to Knorr Streets.  These blocks received the pedestrian lighting, according to Mr. Creelman because wires along these streets were already underground making the installation of pedestrian lighting much less expensive than for blocks where wires still remained above ground.  He noted that higher wattage lighting was also placed along Torresdale from Harbeson to Cottman Avenues.  These improvements were completed in 2009.

The last and final phase of improvements is scheduled to begin in 2012 if approvals from PennDOT come in a timely manner.  Mr. Creelman explained that this phase includes a 19 block stretch from Harbeston to Cottman Avenues.  He noted that the plans for this section have been held up because the funding source was not federal stimulus money.  Projects receiving those funds were executed first, while projects like the second phase of the Torresdale Avenue Project, which are funded by PennDOT and the City of Philadelphia were put on hold.  Funding for the last phase of improvements includes one million dollars obtained by Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz’s office.  Other funds for this project include $920,000 from State Representative McGeehan’s office.

During the period when other projects moved ahead, there were changes to Federal standards for handicapped ramps.  The changed necessitated that the Torresdale project be redesigned adding an additional cost of $60,000 per four corner intersection.  MARC was able to secure additional funding from PennDOT for these costs, as well as the additional $60,000 needed for project redesign by Urban Engineers the designers of the 19-block project.  The project also ran into additional delays from the Philadelphia Streets Department, as the initial paving pattern (honeycomb) in the crosswalks is no longer approved.  MARC and the engineers are working with Streets Department to identify an acceptable pattern.

The project as designed will include new handicapped ramps to meet the new Federal standards at 19 intersections.  Ten intersections will be restriped for school crosswalks and the remaining intersections will be stamped in a pattern acceptable to the Streets Department.  Two curb cuts will be closed along Torresdale Avenue including one around Dave’s Auto and at the 7/11 store.  There will be Solar Belly Trash Cans placed along the avenue, along with benches, bike racks, newspaper corrals, metal banners (as opposed to fabric) and hanging flower baskets on poles and planted tree beds.  Mr. Creelman noted that MARC staff would water any flower baskets placed on poles.  Some sidewalk replacement will occur in places along the avenue where needed, but wholesale sidewalk replacement is not included in this project. The City will empty the Solar Belly Trash cans.  There were several questions about trees and Mr. Creelman said that trees would be replaced with hardy ones as recommended by the MARC arborist on staff.  Funding was received for the ramps by MARC from PennDOT with the help of State Representative McGeehan and State Senator Stack.

The plans are now under review by PennDOT for safety and design field review, and this could take several months.  When the plans are returned from PennDOT review, then the engineers will complete the final design, which will take about two months.  These final plans are then submitted to PennDOT again for final review, which takes another several months.

Mr. Creelman is hoping that the job can be bid out about June 1, 2012.  Mr. Creelman promised to bring the final design to another meeting of the Historic Tacony Revitalization Program  and supply the inventory of street conditions to the Clean and Safe Team so they can use it for their planned “walk about” to determine current conditions.  The Clean and Safe Team is very interested in placement of these new street amenities and looks forward to working with Mr. Creelman, MARC and our new Councilman Bobby Henon in the coming years as these long sought series of improvement to Torresdale Avenue are implemented. If you want to know more about MARC or the upcoming phase of work on Torresdale Ave., please contact Chris Creelman at thecreelmans@verizon.net

The Historic Tacony Revitalization Program is an effort of the Tacony Community Development Corporation, for which Heritage Consulting Inc. is a consultant. We are  assisting the organization to start up a local commercial revitalization effort. Learn more on the program’s  blog www.historictaconyrevitalization.com   and become a member of the group