For the past two years, residents of Fishtown have dealt with two of the most disruptive neighbors: URS Corp. and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Together the engineering firm and the Transportation Department began the Interstate 95 renewal project that extends from Vine Street to Academy Road. Douglas Robbins, a planner for URS and Tom Lindsay, a project manager for the firm come to update the community.
“PennDOT has been very upfront with public outreach, especially being in an urban area where we’re right outside people’s windows,” said Robbins.
Noise complaints and public inconveniences are some of the few complaints the URS representatives have received. Overall, they feel Fishtown has been fairly patient. However, at a meeting of the the Fishtown Neighbors Association (FNA) last month, they announced that construction would take ten years before they reach completion. The residents responded with groans of disbelief. Construction began in 2011, and according to Robbins and Lindsay the feedback has been fairly positive. They predict this may change.
“We’re getting to the bumpy part now where folks’ everyday lives will be upset,” said Robbins. “It’s harder and harder to get them to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
During the meeting, residents inquired about detours, parking, sound and dust barriers.
“Once everything is finished there will also be traffic noise and that affects quality of life,” said Kate Micklow Harwan, president of FNA.
After the meeting, residents crowded around the graphs and charts that illustrated their means of travel for the next decade.
“To me it’s not much of a disruption to life, but it is a little annoying,” said FNA board member Isaac Slepner. “Overall it’s going to beneficial.”
The installation of the interstate highway that spreads its wings from Maine to Florida will bring new eyes to the evolving neighborhood. Residents hope that this will bring in more revenue to Fishtown.
“This project can build things,” said Robbins. “That capital capacity is not there for a lot of people. Working with partnerships in the neighborhood like the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKDC), what they want to do we can help get built.”
As the room began to simmer down after the announcement of the decade-long construction period Robbins reassured Fishtown residents.
“It will get worse before it gets better,” he said.