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Signs notify motorists and pedestrians of the South Street Bridge's closure yesterday. The bridge will remain closed for two years.

The South Street Bridge had only been closed for five hours, but people on the west side of the Schuylkill were already anxious about the effect of the closure on their work commutes.

The bridge closed at 9:30 a.m. yesterday so Driscoll Construction Company could begin its projected two-year reconstruction of the bridge.

Bill Baker, the operations manager of a catering company that works with the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, said he would have to find a new route for the five or six trips he makes across the Schuylkill each day.

According to Jennifer Rowe, administrative assistant in the Transplant section of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, "a whole lot of people came in late this morning because everyone took the same detour routes."

Veronica Sewell, administrative assistant in the business office of the Penn Museum, said she is going to have to leave earlier from her home in New Jersey "because of the increase in traffic."

Since the entire structure will be demolished, no traffic - cars, bicycles or pedestrians - will be able to use the bridge for the duration of reconstruction, which is projected to take two years.

For Penn students and employees who usually take public transportation across the river, however, today's closure is not so worrisome.

Social Policy graduate student Betsy Brooks, for example, takes the train into West Philadelphia each day and said the construction only meant she had to "walk an extra few steps."

Most commuters who do expect to be affected by the bridge closure said they would need to allot an extra half-hour to their morning drive.

But motorists aren't the only bridge-users affected by the reconstruction.

Penn Museum Education Department associate director Gillian Wakely lives in Center City, and said she normally walks across the South Street Bridge to work each day.

"I'll take the bus a lot more often now," she said. "And this will also make a difference to the school groups coming into the museum - we'll have to tell them about the detours available to them."

An ongoing traffic study by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission indicated that most of the usual traffic across the South Street Bridge can be diverted to the Walnut and Chestnut Street bridges.

Not all commuters are eager to use those alternate routes, however.

Sewell said she doesn't want to take the Walnut Street Bridge because she doesn't want to "get stuck downtown." Instead, she said, she'll cross the river at the Gray's Ferry Bridge, which is several blocks south of South Street.

Her usually 10-minute commute will undoubtedly get longer, she said, although she couldn't predict by how much.

Rowe groaned at the thought of how the two-year reconstruction will inconvenience her fellow hospital workers.

"This is very cumbersome," she said of the reconstruction.

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