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The Philadelphia Streets Department announced Wednesday that the 120-year-old South Street bridge at 30th and South streets will be rehabilitated or reconstructed within the next few years. The bridge is a major traffic corridor for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists from both Center City and West Philadelphia. The construction will last for three to four years. Joseph Syrnick, chief engineer and surveyor for the Streets Department, said the bridge needs reconstruction. "The bridge is nearing the end of its useful life," he said. He added that costs for maintaining the structure increase constantly. The Streets Department has chosen Gannett Fleming, a local engineering consulting firm, to help direct the project. Representatives from the Philadelphia Streets Department, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Gannett Fleming were present at a public information meeting held Wednesday evening in Meyerson Hall to announce the bridge project. Gary Sheppard, who is managing the project for Gannett Fleming, emphasized that the bridge rehabilitation is in its infant stages. "No design or construction schemes have been chosen yet," he said. Sheppard noted that the environmental assessment of the bridge and its surroundings will be complete by 1998, when officials will determine a preliminary design plan. He added that the firm will decide between rehabilitation and total reconstruction of the bridge based on the three-year environmental assessment. A final design for the bridge will be completed by 2001, which is when construction is scheduled to begin. The environmental study will review existing conditions and identify constraints and problem areas. The assessment will also review the impact of the construction on the community, natural resources, cultural resources and transportation. The federal and state governments will supply a large majority of the funds for the project, and the city will cover approximately 5 percent of costs. "Our goal is to minimize the impact on the community," Sheppard said. He added that bike lanes and an additional east-bound lane will be added to the eastern approach of the bridge. At Wednesday's meeting, residents asked that the dangerous southbound ramp entrance to the Schuylkill Expressway be switched to the west side of the expressway. But Streets Department official Lane Fike said that while the ramp is dangerous, moving the ramp is not within the scope of the project. "It would be cost-prohibitive to switch around the ramps," Fike said. He added that the issue of the reconstruction of the ramp is under the authority of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, not the Streets Department. Residents also voiced their concerns regarding the pedestrian lights on the bridge. They claimed the lights are dangerous because of poor timing on the lights' switches.

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