The month of March brought a whirlwind of positive news for the City of Philadelphia’s current and future infrastructure projects and planning. With published reports, grant announcements, and visits from Washington, the spotlight on infrastructure has never been brighter.

Infrastructure Solutions Team Report

On March 7, the City’s Infrastructure Solutions Team (IST) published its first ever annual report and action plan to recap the work to date in securing federal investments, specifically from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The report explains the City’s strategy and goals for the largest long-term infrastructure investment in U.S. history. As infrastructure investments create new jobs and economic development for Philadelphia, the City is working towards two goals – one, Philadelphia residents get career opportunities and two, historically underutilized businesses access contract opportunities. 

Later that evening, President Biden delivered his State of the Union address in which he discussed the BIL’s funding of 46,000 new projects around the country.

Chinatown Stitch Grant

On March 11, Mayor Cherelle L. Parker was joined by U.S. Senator Bob Casey, U.S. Representatives Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle, Councilmember Mark Squilla, and Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) Executive Director John Chin at the Crane Community Center to announce a major grant for the Chinatown Stitch project.

The City of Philadelphia, in partnership with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC), was awarded a $158.9 million U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Neighborhood Access and Equity (NAE) grant – the largest single award to date for the City under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – to fund the final design and implementation of phase one of the Chinatown Stitch highway capping project.

As early as 2004, PCDC and Asian Americans United initiated the Chinatown Neighborhood Plan, which recommended a “Vine Street Cover Park” for one of the City’s only neighborhoods without a public greenspace within its borders. The amount of funding is a testament to the strength of the project originating with community voice. Community engagement has demonstrated broad support and focused on centering the Chinatown community in the decision-making process.

OTIS will begin design and engineering work in early 2024. Continuing community engagement will emphasize the development of an Equitable Outcomes Action Plan by PCDC and the design of amenities for the capped area. Construction is anticipated to start in 2028 and be substantially completed in 2031.

Secretary Pete Buttigieg Visit

On March 12, U.S. DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited Philadelphia to observe progress on the rehabilitation of the MLK Drive Bridge. The funding for the bridge is from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

With new improvements, the bridge will have an expanded width at street level, giving room for a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lane which will connect to the MLK Drive trail. The tour was led by Bill Gural, Chief Construction Engineer, Department of Streets, with Managing Director Adam Thiel and Lily Reynolds, Director of Federal Infrastructure Strategy, OTIS joining the Secretary.

The Secretary also met with contractor and local union representatives to discuss ongoing public works projects.

Other Recent Federal Funding

In January, the City received funding through the Ride and Drive Electric Grant to establish “Plug In Philly” – a City-led workforce development pilot program to empower aspiring EV supplies and equipment (EVSE) workers. The Ride and Drive Electric grant is made possible under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and will enable the City to partner with IBEW Local 98, Community College of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Works Inc. And additional partners.

In February, the U.S. DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced $317 million from its Rail Vehicle Replacement program for SEPTA to buy up to 200 new rail cars for the Market-Frankford Line – the most heavily used line in SEPTA’s system. Mayor Parker joined U.S. Senator John Fetterman, FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez, SEPTA CEO and General Manager Leslie Richards, and other officials to make the announcement at the 69th Street Transportation Center. While SEPTA operates separately from the City, the funding marks the largest federal grant ever awarded to the transit agency and will improve the transportation network of our city.