October 27th, 2010

A Modest Proposal to Return the Delaware Waterfront to People

Geoff DiMasi

Last night at Ignite Philly 6, I talked about an idea that may seem radical at first glance, but I really do think is a very reasonable and dare-I-say modest proposal. I would like to remove I-95 from the Ben Franklin Bridge to the Walt Whitman Bridge. I don't want to bury it. I just want to remove it.

Okay, take a moment to have your knee-jerk reaction.

When you are done with that, hear me out. That section of I-95 is a really under-used section. You will still be able to enter Philadelphia from the North and South via I-95. If you want to think in terms of beltways around the city, we already have 676/76 that circles the city (when you include the sections that cut through Camden). Play around with the map below and really think about how you currently enter, leave and drive around the city in general, and I think you will start to see my point.

View Remove I95 in Philadelphia in a larger map

More importantly, think about what we gain. We would regain our connection to the river's edge in a profound and meaningful way. Even though our city is cradled between two rivers, you almost have no sense of the water as you go about your life in Philadelphia. I think we deserve to reconnect to the water and the most historic land in Philadelphia.

And if none of this moves you, think about the economic opportunity of opening up that much land in a prime location, and how much more valuable the land that is currently next to I-95 will become.

[Note: A report by Econsult just released on October 28th bears out the economic gains I mention above: http://www.econsult.com/pennfuturegreenway.htm]

It should be noted that lots of smart and dedicated people are already working on making the Delaware River more accessible. In fact, a new park at the end of Washington Avenue just opened today! All of that is great news. Please check out Plan Philly's work, Plan for the Central Delaware, and the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.

I think all of the work and attention above tells you how important it is to connect people back up with the Delaware River. This modest proposal should be seen as a way to further and enhance this work.

Once the video from the Ignite Philly presentation is available, I will embed it in this post. In the meantime, feel free to flip through my slides below.

View more presentations from geoffd.
Geoff DiMasi

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