Motorists can rejoice as one of the city's main arteries expanded back to four lanes yesterday. After three years, Kelly Drive is finally clear of construction trucks.
The city officially ended above-ground work for a new storm-water sewer tunnel that had kept two lanes of the drive closed.
"I think we can all be grateful for that," said Water Commissioner Bernard Brunwasser at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the drive near South Ferry Road.
The Dobson's Run storm-relief sewer redirects Dobson's Run, a small stream 100 feet beneath East Falls, Nicetown and southwest Germantown. The stream had been a source of flooding for several decades because it could no longer be contained by its 8-foot, 6-inch-diameter storm sewer, built in 1912. It now flows in a 12-foot, 6-inch-diameter concrete tunnel that is 3,500 feet long and empties into the Schuylkill.
"Only storm water will enter the tunnel at this point," Brunwasser said. "Thereby continuing our mission to improve water quality in the Schuylkill River."
Winding its way below Allegheny Avenue, the tunnel, which cost $36.4 million, crosses beneath the CSX railroad tracks and the historic Laurel Hill Cemetery.
"The amount of storm-water management that will happen here and the amount of flooding that will lessen in the communities and the neighborhoods was well worth the cost," said Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and utilities.
Al Spivey Jr., chief of staff for Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., lives in the area where contractors began blasting almost three years ago. He said he watched as crews addressed the concerns of the public while working to get their jobs done, making the construction easier on the community.
"Often water is difficult to manage," Spivey said. "When you have some pre-planning like the Water Department envisioned and you can pull off something like this, it's great for the area."
As part of the project, contractors created a scenic overlook along the Schuylkill for pedestrians and bikers.
But making everything beautiful doesn't fix the city's water-system problems, Cutler said.
"Water infrastructure, particularly, has not been rebuilt to the degree it needs to be," Cutler said. "It doesn't have the same constituency as roads and bridges because mostly you don't see it. So it gets to be ignored until somebody's neighborhood is flooded."