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Driscoll Construction Company has been awarded a $67-million contract to reconstruct the South Street Bridge, Mayor Michael Nutter announced yesterday.

Reconstruction of the bridge, which extends from 27th Street to Convention Avenue and connects University City to Center City, will begin with the demolition of the existing bridge in December and should be complete in two years.

The project will close the bridge to traffic, as well as entrance and exit ramps to the Schuylkill Expressway from South Street.

The reconstruction will be financed 80 percent by federal funds, 15 percent by the state and 5 percent by the city.

"Today's announcement represents essential investment in Philadelphia, and investment in the city's infrastructure," Nutter said in a statement. "This project is a reflection of the hard work, cooperation and compromise of the community, city and state employees and it represents a new way of doing business in Philadelphia."

Marcia Wilkof, Democratic leader of the 30th Ward, agreed that the final bridge design represents the various interests that were at play in planning and designing the new structure.

"This really is a model for how projects like this should be done: as a collaboration between the city, the neighborhoods and other relevant groups," she said.

The plan for the new bridge incorporates revisions generated over the past year in negotiations between the Philadelphia Streets Department, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and parties affected by the reconstruction, such as Penn and residents of neighborhoods on either side of the bridge.

Those revisions include fewer vehicle lanes, a lower speed limit and wider pedestrian and bicycle lanes.

The South Street Bridge Coalition, which includes community leaders and associations such as the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, first formally recommended many of those new revisions in an April study.

Jim Campbell, president of the South Street Bridge Coalition, said his group was "exceedingly happy" with the final plan for the bridge - the version Driscoll accepted.

"It's going to connect two historically important neighborhoods, and it's going to be more in context with the neighborhood" than the original plan, he said. "It's literally everything we asked for."

The only major component of the bridge left to finalize, according to Campbell, are the watch towers located at various points along the bridge.

The security and aesthetics of those towers still need to be clarified, Campbell said.

Overall, however, Wilkof and Campbell said they are both delighted the bridge's reconstruction is imminent - it's been in planning since 1995.

"We're delighted that the contract has been awarded," said Wilkof. "It's great that it's finally going to happen."

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