'Businesses are dying because of this': Port Richmond gets expensive, inconvenient face lift

John McDevitt
October 28, 2019 - 4:30 am
A crew working to install trolley tracks along Richmond St.

John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Two massive infrastructure projects underway in Port Richmond are causing traffic woes and businesses to close.

A stretch of Richmond Street off of Allegheny Avenue has been closed to traffic as trolley tracks are being installed and street improvements are being made. Work started about two years ago as part of a $32 million PennDOT project.

"I'm on a street now that has easily 70% vacancy," said Joseph Livewell, co-owner of the River Wards Cafe. The work has been going on right outside his business.

"There is nothing like a little coffee shop to just kind of go to and relax," added Livewell, but he said the construction has led to his small business taking a big financial hit.

"It's something that I don't think you can really be so prepared mentally for what it takes to go through a project this long," he admitted. "It does beat me up some days, I can't lie about that."

Livewell said he's been getting creative to help make ends meet, like selling boxes of coffee online at a discount to those who want to donate the coffee to outstanding members of the community.

"That really helps us kind of get the word out that, 'Hey, we are still open,'" he explained. "The people that are donating are happy that they are supporting not only the River Wards Cafe, but they are also supporting a teacher or local organization."

The work outside of the River Wards Cafe is expected to be done by the end of the year.

A separate $312 million PennDOT construction project is going on along nearby I-95, which caused the closure of the Girard Avenue off-ramp.

Many residents like Bill and Angel say with all of the closures and detours, rush hour is all day long.

"We have traffic on Edgemont Street all day and all night long," said Bill. "It's worse than rush hour."

"Sometimes you have to wait to get off the highway because they are all making their turns to come down here," Angel chimed in.

Longtime Port Richmond resident Chuck Gorman said the driving in the area has gotten terrible. He admitted traffic congestion, detours, and parking problems are a huge inconvenience but a small price to pay when the infrastructure is modernized.

"I'm excited about it," Gorman said. "It's a positive change and people around here are generally optimistic."

Neighbor George Herbert was also optimistic. He added, "Anytime you have renovations, you will always have some bit of inconvenience, but the end result will be worth it."

According to PennDOT, another improvement project is planed in 2021 for sections of Delaware, Allegheny and Castor avenues.

You can hear the full story on the KYW Newsradio original podcast Scroll Down, hosted and produced by Tom Rickert, or listen below. Scroll Down is available on the RADIO.COM app and wherever you get your podcasts.