A planned extension of Delaware Avenue in Bridesburg is tied up in a dispute between the city and the Delaware River Port Authority, which could jeopardize $15 million in federal funds awarded for the extension, according to city officials.
An impatient U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Phila.), who obtained the federal funding in 2005, said Friday that the two sides "have to work this out."
The city wants to extend Delaware Avenue about one mile, from Lewis Street over Frankford Creek and under the Betsy Ross Bridge to Buckius Street.
The extension is part of the master plan for the development of the Delaware River waterfront and is designed to provide access to future development along the river.
The extension would also link to the planned North Delaware River Greenway trail system.
The city needs an easement from the DRPA to build the extension under the Betsy Ross. The DRPA has balked at granting that easement.
The reason is the DRPA's desire to have the city assume ownership of Hedley Street, a nearby roadway that has belonged to DRPA since it purchased land for the construction of the bridge in the 1960s.
The city doesn't want to take Hedley in its current condition, since it is not built or paved to meet city codes. An upgrade would cost $2 million.
The city wants the DRPA to pay the $2 million. The DRPA says that is the city's responsibility.
The city, which says it currently has no interest in Hedley, argues that issue should not stall the $18 million extension of Delaware Avenue.
Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation, said the standoff eventually could cost the city $15 million in federal funds granted in 2005 for the extension.
Cutler met with DRPA officials in Camden this week, and said she was "hopeful" the dispute could be resolved soon so that construction of the long-planned extension can start in spring.
DRPA spokesman Tim Ireland said, "Our position is firm. We're not going to budge. . . . It would cost our toll payers $2 million, and they'd get nothing in return.
"If the city wants to give up $15 million for $2 million, well, that's up to them."
Ireland said Delaware Avenue and Hedley Street are linked by geography and future traffic patterns, and should be dealt with together.
Schwartz, who was instrumental in obtaining the federal "earmark" grant for the Delaware Avenue extension six years ago, said her message to the city and DRPA "is pretty simple: Just work it out."
"My impatience is that the money has been there for a while," Schwartz said. "I'm impatient to get it done. It's not easy to get federal funding."
She called the road extension "a key part" of the waterfront development, and "it's got to be possible to work this out."
Schwartz said a settlement needed to be reached in the next few weeks if roadwork is to proceed in spring.