RICHMOND STREET was a dangerously clogged artery in the heart of Bridesburg's business district for decades until last week's long-awaited bypass surgery.
Thomas La Croix, who owns an Allstate insurance agency in Bridesburg, said the newly-opened Richmond Street bypass diverts hundreds of heavy trucks from jamming the business district's main drag on their way to and from I-95.
Officially dubbed the "Delaware Avenue Extension," phase one of the federally-funded, $14.5 million road runs from Lewis to Orthodox streets, including a new, two-lane bridge over Frankford Creek. It will eventually extend to Buckius Street, then to Bridge Street and beyond.
"For years, there's been way too much congestion on Richmond Street - truck traffic, industrial traffic, rush-hour traffic, Franklin Towne Charter School bus traffic," La Croix said.
At least there was until the new bypass opened on Tuesday, he said. "As a business owner, I can tell you, oh my gosh, Richmond Street was bedlam at 9 o'clock in the morning. And God forbid there was an accident on I-95.
"For years," he said, "Bridesburg has been pleading with the city to loop the traffic, especially truck and tractor-trailer traffic, around Bridesburg."
La Croix stood on the new Frankford Creek bridge, watching the dump trucks and semitrailers from Bridesburg's heavy industries rumble along the Delaware Avenue Extension instead of using Richmond Street.
"It's a godsend," he said.
Mike Orsini, who has owned Konny's Auto Body on Orthodox Street near Miller Street for 30 years, said, "I didn't know the new road had opened. A couple of days ago, I went down there at morning rush hour and like nobody was on Richmond Street, which was strange. I didn't know why. A week ago it was bumper-to-bumper."
Joe Slabinski, owner of the Slabinski Funeral Home, a Bridesburg family business since 1917, said "[Former] Congressman Bob Borski had this dream 16 or 17 years ago, and now this is a real dream come true for all of us in Bridesburg.
"We've always had industry here," Slabinski said. "This new road will get the trucks off residential streets. People who live on Orthodox Street have complained for years about truck traffic, because their homes literally shake and there are cracks in the walls that they've been putting up with for years and years.
"It always boils back down to quality of life," he said. "Now, people won't find it impossible to cross the street at 8 o'clock in the morning or 5 o'clock in the afternoon. This is the first visible, positive step that we're seeing here."
Slabinski said the new road is part of the progress he sees all around him in Bridesburg, including a Center City law firm moving there and the planned development of a closed Catholic church and school into residences and a community center.
"We've got a lot of positive vibes in Bridesburg and more to come," Slabinski said happily.
On Twitter: @DanGeringer