Philadelphia Reckoning! Should Philadelphia ditch the section of I-95 between the Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin Bridges?
Yes, believe it or not, Philadelphia is built along not just one, but two rivers.
One of those rivers is one of the most famous rivers in America -- the river that George Washington crossed to defeat the Hessians -- the river from which William Penn emerged to forge a new world -- a river on which the very foundations of this country were laid. The other is most notable for having a completely unspellable name, and for having a highway named after it that would've been cast as the ninth circle of hell had Dante known about it in 1316.
And yet when it comes to city life and urban planning, the Schuylkill is absolutely destroying the Delaware river. Ten years ago, the Schuykill already had Fairmount Park, Boathouse Row, both the River Drives, and the Art Museum going for it. Now the actual Center City portion of the river -- long an industrial wasteland -- has suddenly become verdant and beautiful on its own. Everything is green. People go there when they're not trying to exchange suitcases of cash with shadowly underworld figures. It's astonishing!
The Delaware, meanwhile, is as dank as it has ever been. That is, if you're aware that it even exists. Because there's a damned highway that separates the river from the rest of the city. Good ol' Ed Bacon, Kevin's Dad and longtime Grand Poobah of Philadelphia City Planning, routed I-95 right along the Delaware waterfront back in 1966, thus ensuring that there would never actually be a waterfront. Instead, the Delaware River is almost completely absent from Philadelphia civic life, with the one possible exception that you can see it if you're eating in a window booth at the Columbus Boulevard Ikea.
But such may not be the case forever! A few notable Philadelphians have been trying their damndest to get the city planning commission to think about ridding us of the eyesore of I-95 between the bridges, by either leveling it outright or turning it into a street level boulevard. Geoff DiMasi of P'unk Avenue has been a prominent and passionate supporter, and Diana Lind, Editor At Large for Next American City has outlined a plan that would convert that strip of 95 from an elevated highway into something Philadelphia could actually call a 'waterfront'.
What do you think, Reckonauts-who-give-a-whit-about-Philadelphia, do you think Philly should knock down the section of I-95 between the Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin, or do you think that's a nightmare waiting to happen?