Walking or biking from Old City to Race Street Pier will become twice as nice later this year, as improvements to the north side of Race Street are set to begin this fall with a new $1.1 million state grant.

The Central Delaware Waterfront Corporation, the quasi-city agency that oversees both the city's long-range plans for the waterfront and the development of the publicly owned parcels there, opened the south side of the Race Street Connector project more than two years ago.

Improved lighting, landscaping and hardscaping are designed to make traveling from neighborhood to waterfront more obvious and pleasant. The Race Street Connector was the first of a list of connector projects up and down the Central Delaware, all called for in the city's long-range waterfront vision.

The north side of the connector was never meant to open at the same time as the south side. Physical realities involved with crossing traffic ramps made that side more complicated, and also required permissions from city streets, PennDOT, The Federal Highway Administration, and the Delaware River Port Authority.

But nobody at DRWC or the city thought it would take this long to get going on the north side – particularly considering that in February 2012, DRWC received a $1.1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Communities Transportation Initiative to cover the cost.

That grant had a time limit, though. And that time expired before DRWC could reach an agreement with the Port Authority.

No extension could be granted because the entire state grant program went away the next budget cycle.

Last week came a financial reprieve, said DRWC Vice Chairman Joe Forkin.

He credited the work of Philadelphia Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler, who also sits on the DRWC board, with convincing PennDOT to grant $1.1 million for the Race Street Connector project.

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