WDEL's Road Scholar: Another gateway to Wilmington's Riverfront will deliver far easier access

An architect's rendering for the bridge concept to be constructed on the eventual New Sweden Street (Courtesy/DelDOT)

The goal for planners of Wilmington's Riverfront, as set in motion by the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC), was to transform an industrial wasteland into a destination complete with recreational, cultural, retail, and culinary attractions.

After growth spurts spanning the greater of thirty years, the vision for the city's tourism hub has been satisfactorily achieved. But its evolution is hardly complete. For example, one of the greatest issues of the Christina River's west side is traffic congestion.

"Anybody (who's) ever been stuck in traffic at Frawley Stadium after a Blue Rocks game--or an event at the Chase Center--knows," recounted DelDOT project engineer Ray Petrucci, "that you have to go north to go south, if you're (ultimately) going south (on Interstate 95). If you're going north, you're in with all of the traffic that's going south."

The proposed solution, which is now set to be begin construction later in 2016, creates a new access point. Using significant public input from several years of workshops, the Delaware Department of Transportation and the Wilmington Area Planning Council (Wilmapco) developed the plans for the riverfront's newest gateway. The corridor, to be named New Sweden Street, will incorporate a fourth bridge crossing of the Christina River near its southern branch in Wilmington, effectively connecting the industrial landing off South Market Street with the riverfront's southwest location just below the Shipyard Shops.

The newest corridor, New Sweden Street (shaded in yellow), that will access the Christina River's west side (Courtesy/DelDOT)

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"I call it a mega project," quipped Petrucci, "which is the bridge and the approaches on either side of the project. It's been split into two portions. One is the bridge itself--we've just about completed the design for that and it will go out to bid later on this year, and we hope to have shovel in the ground later on this year."

An architect's rendering for the bridge underpass (Courtesy/DelDOT)

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Though the developers' right-of-way process to secure the real estate for the approaches is more involved than for the bridge construction, Petrucci explained that both portions are working on roughly the same timeline.

"Everything is aligning so the bridge and the approaches are done at the same time. We don't want a bridge to nowhere, just be sitting out there."

The new bridge had been considered elsewhere--such as north of the Shipyard Shops--but those areas presented several limitations.

"The options we looked at north of the point we have now just didn't work geometrically," acknowledged Petrucci. "They don't work engineering-wise and they would actually cut into a lot of the development on that west side."

Notable features of the New Sweden Street bridge and corridor include:

  • Split outbound traffic from Frawley Stadium et al so that southbound interstate travelers take New Sweden Street east to US-13/South Market Street, where they can access Interstates 495 and 95.
  • The planned construction of Peterson Way, providing more direct access to the Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge. "As you know, they get a lot of school buses in through there," noted Petrucci, "which now have to go close to the Delmarva property (and) the LNG tank. This is just a much better way to get (them) into the wildlife preserve."
  • Creates development parcels on both sides of the river. "You'll probably see a lot of economic activity due to this bridge connection and roadways."

An architect's rendering for the shared use on the bridge deck (Courtesy/DelDOT)

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Though users will have to wait until 2019 to reap the full benefit of the crossing, Petrucci expects it will embody the very essence of a gateway.

"As if the Riverfront hasn't already changed the character of this portion of Wilmington, this will take it to another level."

(Courtesy/DelDOT)

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Contact Andrew Sgroi at andrew@dbcmedia.com or follow him on Twitter at @Cuse92.