Mayor Michael Nutter visited the construction site at the 40th Street bridge connecting Mantua and Parkside on Thursday afternoon. Nutter visited the site to promote the passage of the Rebuild America Jobs Act and support those involved in the 40th Street bridge construction project.
Thursday was a significant day for both the Rebuild America Jobs Act and the ongoing bridge construction.
On Thursday the Senate voted down the bill, which if passed would have invested $50 billion in roads, railways and runways across the country as well as $10 billion to establish a National Infrastructure Bank that would utilize private and public funding to support construction projects throughout the country.
“Behind every one of these dollars there’s a job,” Nutter said to members of the Philadelphia Streets Department, Amtrak safety crew, construction workers, members of the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and leaders of Buckley and Co., the Philadelphia-based firm managing construction.
Nutter stressed the importance and need of federal funding and said that the City of Philadelphia needs $190 million for road and bridge projects and SEPTA needs an additional $5 million for maintenance and improvements.
The 40th Street bridge, Nutter said, is an example of successful government funding. The bridge is a nearly $12 million project, 80 percent of which is funded by the federal government, 15 percent by the state and 5 percent by the city. Through the supply chain, construction has likely supported 1,000 jobs, said Clarena Tolson, Philadelphia Streets Department commissioner.
“[The bridge] is certainly reconnecting these two parts of West Philadelphia, but it’s also putting a lot of folks to work,” Nutter said. “People take these things for granted, going back and forth but also how important these projects are to putting people to work.”
Thursday was significant for crews at the 40th Street bridge construction site because the first two 160-foot-long steel girders arrived from Lancaster County, Pa. Crews plan to install the girders overnight starting Monday, Nov. 7, just before midnight and working until approximately 5 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8.
To install the girders, Buckley and Company, brought in a crane capable of lifting 500 million pounds. Transporting the crane alone requires eight to 10 trailer loads of equipment and several additional jobs, said Rob Buckley, CEO and chairman of the company.
“I respect and appreciate what you’re doing,” Nutter said to the construction workers he spoke with. “I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you know what you’re doing,” he joked.
The train tracks running beneath the 40th Street bridge are SEPTA’s busiest regional rail tracks and one of Amtrak’s busiest rail segments in the country, said Andrew Stoeer of the Mayor’s Office of Transportation.
All Amtrak trains coming into and leaving Philadelphia, including trains to and from New York, Washington D.C., and Harrisburg, Pa., pass through the construction site, said Will Kirkland, the Amtrak foreman on site during Nutter’s visit.
“This is a very busy interlocking,” Kirkland said. “Imagine a bowl of spaghetti.”
Amtrak has kept approximately six employees on site during construction to ensure safety around the operating trains, train tracks and electric rails.
The 40th Street bridge is one of three bridges, including those at 41st and 42nd streets, that runs across the tracks and connects the neighborhoods of Mantua and Parkside. The 40th Street bridge closed to traffic in 2007. Reconstruction of the bridge began in January 2011 and is set to be completed in December 2012.
Darin Gatti, engineering manager for the Philadelphia Department of Streets, said the department hopes to move forward with construction of the 41st Street bridge immediately following the 40th Street bridge completion.
“This neighborhood has put up with a lot having to deal with three bridges in such bad shape,” Darin Gatti said.
He said each bridge takes approximately two years to complete but getting federal funding for the 40th Street bridge was a slow and challenging process. Gatti said he hopes the City of Philadelphia can secure funding to complete the third bridge.
“We’re very, very excited about what’s going on, which is why where trying to get more infrastructure funding,” Nutter said.