The Philadelphia Tribune: MLK Bridge closes Monday for $20.1 million repair and rehabilitation

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Drive Bridge closed Monday to begin a $20.1 million structural repair and restoration thanks to federal infrastructure funds that will also create 200 union jobs.

The bridge, located between MLK Drive and Eakins Oval, connects Center City with West Fairmount Park, and is expected to be closed until spring 2025. Signs have been posted to direct travelers by vehicles, bicycles or on foot to detours around the worksite.

In 2021, an inspection of the MLK Bridge found that 75% of one of the steel framing connections was deteriorated. Since then, the bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic but open to pedestrians and cyclists.

“Delaying this critical rehabilitation project due to a lack of funding would have placed an enormous burden on communities along both sides of the river and cause unnecessary economic impacts,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.

The MLK Bridge rehabilitation project will involve the demolition and removal of the existing concrete bridge deck and barriers, and the construction of a new composite concrete bridge deck, along with barriers and railing. In addition, there will be rehabilitation work on the bridge substructure and superstructure, painting of the steel girders, roadway approach works, additional street lighting, American Disabilities Act (ADA) curb ramps and other construction.

The goals of the project are to ensure structural integrity, meet current standards and accommodate a path for pedestrians and cyclists.

Beginning April 1, MLK Drive will also be closed to vehicular traffic to provide recreational access for bikes and pedestrians during the bridge construction. Weekend closure of MLK Drive will be between 7 a.m. on Saturdays and 7 a.m. Mondays, in addition to any previously announced closings.

The reconstruction of the bridge was awarded to Haines & Kibblehouse Inc., which is based in the Navy Yard and specializes in construction, demolition of bridges, highways and other projects. In addition to the 200 jobs, another 80 jobs should be created related to the supply chain.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said the construction of the vital artery in the city will be paid for by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“When the bridge reopens, people will have shorter commute times, emergency vehicles and trucks transporting critical supplies will reach their destinations more efficiently, and Philadelphians who used this bridge will have peace of mind knowing it is safe,” Casey said.

Louis Belmonte, District 6 executive at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) said the bridge repair is a critical investment in infrastructure needed to keep people safe and support the economy.

“I am pleased to see this bridge project moving forward,” said U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District. “I am proud to have voted for the Biden Infrastructure and Jobs Act that is making this possible and helping to provide $500 million in recently announced federal funding for water upgrades and lead service removal in Philadelphia, as well as funding for several other life-improving, job-creating projects across our city.”