The primary purpose of this rehabilitation project is to replace and widen the bridge deck to ensure structural integrity and to meet current design standards. In conjunction with the rehabilitation, structural steel repairs will be made, the bridge will be cleaned and painted, pedestrian scale lighting will be installed, and a side path for pedestrians and cyclists will be provided. These improvements will maximize the service life of the bridge, improve user safety, and create a more functional bridge crossing between MLK, Jr. Drive and the Art Museum for all users. These improvements are consistent with the citywide Vision Zero Program.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Drive Bridge is a steel box-girder bridge opened in 1966. It spans the Schuylkill River and provides a connection between the MLK Drive and Eakins Oval. It is a parallel route to I-76 and Kelly Drive and is used by vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
Frequently Asked Questions about the MLK Jr. Drive Bridge Project
These images of current bridge conditions illustrate the extensive deterioration and/or substandard conditions that currently exist, including clockwise from the top:
These issues need to be resolved before they present a situation where the bridge is no longer structurally sound and requires closure.
Perhaps the most visible element of the “new” bridge will be the widened side path. The top portion of this image shows the two-way path that will accommodate pedestrians and cyclists and separate them from vehicular traffic using pedestrian- and bicycle-compatible railing.
One can see the improvement over the existing narrow sidewalk for pedestrians and very modest shoulder, currently used by cyclists. It is hoped that users of all skill levels will feel safe here.
The bridge is being widened as much as possible without overloading the existing steel support beams or adversely affecting bridge aesthetics. Further widening would require a complete bridge reconstruction.
As part of the rehabilitation, there is an opportunity to reconfigure the roadway layout to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. This is being done to the extent possible while accommodating vehicular traffic. As such, the lane configuration and related improvements are proposed:
The Schuylkill River Trail passing beneath the MLK Bridge will need to be closed for a duration of up to six (6) consecutive months to accommodate certain construction activities. This closure will preferably be timed during low usage months. An accessible detour will be posted.
The MLK, Jr. Drive Bridge will be closed for 24 months. The outbound posted detour will follow Spring Garden Street to I-76 westbound and back to MLK, Jr. Drive via Montgomery Drive (Exit 341).
The MLK, Jr. Drive Bridge will be closed for 24 months. The inbound posted detour will follow Sweetbriar Drive to Lansdowne Drive to 34th Street to Spring Garden Street to Eakins Oval.
The bridge is expected to be closed and under construction from Fall 2021 to Fall 2023. Inasmuch as efficiencies can be made to reduce the closure time, they will be.