MLK Drive

Only a Portion of MLK Drive Reopens to Vehicular Traffic

Due to repairs needed to MLK Bridge, the stretch of MLK Drive will remain closed south of Sweetbriar Drive until rehab construction is completed

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What to Know

  • Only a portion of Philadelphia’s Martin Luther King Drive reopened to vehicular traffic on Wednesday due to repairs needed on the bridge, the city announced Tuesday.
  • The city had initially announced last month that MLK Drive would open to vehicular traffic beginning on August 4 at 5 p.m. However, the city now says that due to repairs needed to MLK Bridge, the Drive will remain closed south of Sweetbriar Drive until rehab construction is completed. 
  • Officials said they expect the repair project to be completed in 2024. 

Only a portion of Philadelphia’s Martin Luther King Drive reopened to vehicular traffic on Wednesday due to repairs needed on the bridge.

The city had initially announced last month that MLK Drive would open to vehicular traffic beginning on August 4 at 5 p.m. However, the city now says that due to repairs needed to MLK Bridge, the Drive will remain closed south of Sweetbriar Drive until rehab construction is completed. 

“An inspection to the underside of the MLK bridge found one of the connections of the steel framing to be about 75 percent deteriorated. As a result, we will have to keep the bridge closed to traffic until the rehab construction,” Deputy Managing Director for Transportation, Mike Carroll said. “For now, the bridge can stay open and is still safe for pedestrians and bicycles, but no motor vehicles will be able to use the bridge until the full rehabilitation project is complete.” 

Officials said they expect the repair project to be completed in 2024. 

The city is currently working with PennDOT to provide message signs in the impacted area. There will also be traffic police at the signal of Girard and Lansdowne avenues.  

“We continue to work closely with City Council and Philadelphia Police to ensure a smooth official reopening of MLK Drive,” Carroll said.

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The rest of MLK Drive will be open to vehicular traffic on weekdays. Philadelphia will continue to close the Drive for weekend recreational use and city holidays from Falls Bridge to Eakins Oval starting on Saturday, Aug. 7 at 6 a.m. through the end of October. Special events on the bridge will also be reviewed on a case by case basis. 

MLK Drive, which is nestled between the Schuylkill River and Fairmount Park and connects some of Philadelphia’s western neighborhoods to Center City, had been closed to vehicular traffic since the coronavirus pandemic reached the city in 2020. 

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia hoped to sway Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials to permanently close MLK Drive off from motor vehicles, and more than 5,900 people signed a petition calling on Kenney to do just that.

"Usage has risen 1,300% on the Drive, and it caters to more than 9,660 people on warm weekends, with about 90 percent of those users being new trail users who did not bike, walk, or roll on trails before the pandemic," the coalition petition says. "Closing the Drive to motor vehicles for good, or splitting MLK Drive between uses, will continue having a long term positive impact on Philadelphia."

But Carroll and City Councilman Curtis Jones, who represents the neighborhoods surrounding MLK Drive, said its importance as a release valve for traffic on Interstate 76 and as a well-used route to and from Center City is part of the overall equation.

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