Archive: February, 2012
Inga Saffron, Inquirer Architecture Critic
Andrew Stober, Mayor Nutter’s point person on transportation, had the unenviable task Thursday night of trying to defend the planned reconstruction of the least loveable piece of infrastructure in Philadelphia - the 10-lane stretch of I-95 that cuts off Center City from the Delaware River - before a crowd that thinks the highway should never have been built in the first place.
Stober was speaking at “Reimagining Urban Highways,” a panel organized by Diana Lind of the group Next America City and previewed here. In an effort to start a conversation about the future of I-95, which comes up for a federally mandated overhaul in 2040, Lind assembled some of the nation’s top highway removal experts to share their experiences. City Hall had initially refused to participate in the event, but at the last minute Stober was dispatched by his boss, Deputy Mayor Rina Cuter, to make the administration’s case for keeping I-95 exactly as it is. That alone was progress. Until Thursday, Cutler had squashed any talk in City Hall of burying, capping, narrowing or eliminating I-95.
Stober did a good job of putting the administration’s views in a larger context, and made a compelling argument for prioritizing mass transit, calling SEPTA “an incredible inheritance.” But it also became clear that Cutler’s office rejected a redesign for I-95 without ever having done a comparative, cost-benefit analysis of the possible scenarios. Until that happens, Philadelphia can’t have a truly informed debate on the issue.