Designs that would cover the Vine Street Expressway were released for the Chinatown Stitch project

The city on Tuesday released three possible designs for the Chinatown Stitch, a project to build a cap over the Vine Street Expressway with the intention of bridging the physical barrier that divided Chinatown in two when the freeway was built in the 1960s.

The cap would also create new space in the densely populated neighborhood that could be used for parks or other amenities. The Philadelphia Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability and the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. started the project in March.

When it was built about 60 years ago, the 1 3/4 mile stretch of Interstate 676 cut a ditch through Chinatown between Ninth Street and 12th Street. Local residents have long complained that the freeway makes the neighborhood appear less integrated, poses a safety risk and limits development opportunities.

The three designs The findings are based in part on a survey distributed by the city and PCDC in the spring, which gathered information on how to prioritize the project. More than 2,300 people responded, including about a third of those using the Chinese language version of the survey.

The city’s drawings include an option to build coverage over two blocks of I-676 and two others proposing coverage over three blocks. The two-block plan would cover the freeway between 10th and 11th streets and between 12th and 13th streets. The section of the Vine Street Expressway between 11th and 12th Streets would be partially covered.

The first three-block plan would cover the freeway from 10th to 13th streets. The second would cover the same portion of I-676, but the westbound lanes of Vine Street would be moved to the cap. Where Vine’s westbound lanes are currently located would be incorporated into the cap’s newly created space.

All three designs would potentially connect the new green space to the existing rail park and involve the removal of the noise barriers that now line the perimeter of Vine Street.

The results of the survey indicated that residents strongly support the creation of a park on the cap. People also expressed support for improving road safety around the Vine Street Expressway area and for mixed-use development projects.

“Chinatown is excited and hopeful that the next generation will live and work in a neighborhood where the freeway is no longer a physical and mental barrier to the growth of our community,” said PCDC Executive Director John Chin.

The $4 million planning phase of Chinatown Stitch is supported by a $1.8 million grant from the US Department of Transportation and $2.2 million from the city, PennDOT, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and private donors funded.

Chinatown executives have been debating plans to cap the Vine Street Expressway for nearly 20 years. Although such projects are complex from a technical and traffic point of view, the city has recently shown more interest. Construction on the 1 1/2 acre park, which will terminate I-95 at Penn’s Landing between Chestnut and Walnut streets, began earlier this year.

Chinatown Stitch moves forward as the Philadelphia 76ers advance their plan to build a new arena on East Market Street, which will be adjacent to the south end of Chinatown.

Before the city administration envisages building the cap from 2028, community meetings and planning will have to take place for several years.

For the time being, the city distributes a second poll (Follow this shortcut for the simplified Chinese version) to get feedback on the three proposed designs, which were released on Tuesday. The next public workshop to discuss the Chinatown Stitch will be on Monday, September 8 from 6-8 p.m. at the Chinese Christian Church and Center.

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