The Blue Route and Schulykill Interstate was built to relieve local traffic and install ramps for developmental sites in Conshohocken and West Conshohocken, PA off of I-476.
Project Type:Interchange Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:12,000 Length (mi):0.00
Economic Distress:0.98 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):1602 Population Growth Rate (%):0.41
Employment Growth Rate (%):0.64 Market Size:1,661,251 Airport Travel Distance:44.4333 Topography:10
Region:New England/Mid-Atlantic State:PA County:County
City:Conshohocken Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:Conshohocken
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:40.064671 / -75.321511
Initial Study Date:1987 Post Constr. Study Date:1997
Constr. Start Date:1988 Constr. End Date:1989
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 1989 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):5,750,000 Actual Cost (curr $):10,802,442
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||34.90||22.17||57.07|
|Output (in $M's)||99.24||63.06||162.30|
Between 1964 and 1992, 21.5 miles of Interstate 476 was completed between Interstate 95 at Chester, PA in the south, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike at Norristown in the north. I-476, known locally as the ?Blue Route,? intersects with Interstate 76 (the Schuylkill Expressway) at Conshohocken. In the late-1980's, as part of the construction of Interstate 476, ramps were built providing access to developable waterfront land in West Conshohocken, and to land in Conshohocken via a bridge over the Schuylkill River. These ramps and the foresight of a few developers has led to a renaissance of the Conshohockens, transforming the waterfront with eighteen office towers, two hotels, and several condominium complexes. Over $1 billion has been invested and more than 10,000 jobs created just in a 120-acre area along the river. The Conshohockens have realized new tax revenues that have allowed considerable investment in public infrastructure and have made the boroughs preferred locations for both businesses and residents.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
Interstate 476 west of Philadelphia, also known as the Blue Route and the Mid-County Expressway, is a 21.5 mile Interstate Highway connecting I-95 in Chester to Interstate 76/the Schuylkill Expressway in Conshohocken, and proceeding north to Norristown and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Conshohocken and West Conshohocken are located at a major transportation nexus in the Philadelphia region, connecting points north and south to points east and west along major Interstates. The towns are located 15 minutes from downtown Philadelphia (during off-peak travel periods) and 30 minutes from the Philadelphia airport.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
During the early part of the 20th century, the boroughs of Conshohocken and West Conshohocken, both located on the Schuylkill River, were known as manufacturing communities, home to steel mills and rubber factories. Most of the boroughs' industry had shuttered by the mid-1970's, leaving the two communities devastated. As part of the completion of Interstate 476 in the late 1980's, ramps were built from the Interstate providing access to vacant, developable waterfront land in West Conshohocken, and to land in Conshohocken via a bridge over the Schuylkill River. Developers recognized the redevelopment potential of this land, and have built eighteen office towers, two hotels, and several condominium complexes in the area, creating one of the most desirable office locations in the Philadelphia region.
Currently, approximately 164,000 residents live within a five-mile radius of the Mastonford Bridge between West Conshohocken and Conshohocken. In addition, 153,000 jobs are located within the same radius, including workers at the 18 office tours located along the riverfront and at two big box malls (IKEA and Lowes).
The motivation for the highway was to provide a bypass of the Philadelphia region and relieve traffic on local roads and state highways west of the city. The highway was first proposed in 1929 and added to the planned Interstate network in the 1950's, but due to considerable environmental issues and local opposition, construction did not begin until 1964. The major environmental concerns centered around disruption to the Darby Creek and Crum Creek valleys. The first sections of the highway south of Interstate 76 were completed in the 1970's, but were not used for twenty years because they did not connect anything. The highway was not completed until 1992. The majority of the highway was held up in court as environmentalists tried to stop its construction. It was not until the mid-1980's that construction started in earnest after the Supreme Court denied hearing a case to overthrow a lower court ruling allowing construction to go forward after a 16-year delay.
In 1957, the proposed cost of the highway was $40 million. Upon completion in 1992, the cost of the highway had reached $600 million.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
I-476 between I-76 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike was designed to carry 70,000 trips per day. One decade after the highway opened in 2002, average annual daily trips (AADT) had already surpassed projections for 2010. In 2007, AADT on I-476 between Exit 13 (Villanova) and Exit 16 (I-76/Conshohocken) reached 120,000, well over design capacity. In response, PennDOT has installed meter lights along entrance ramps to control traffic and reconstruction of the I-476 bridge over the Schuylkill River with expected completion in 2009. Planning and design studies are underway to identify additional options for expanding capacity on the highway in this area.
The Interstate ramps and resulting development have also impacted transit use in Conshohocken. A SEPTA commuter rail station on the R6 line connecting Norristown to Center City Philadelphia is located in the midst of the new development along the waterfront in Conshohocken. Of particular note is that A.M. peak period boardings and alightings are almost equivalent, suggesting that just as many people are commuting to jobs in the area as are commuting from residences in the area to jobs elsewhere.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
This core development area has spurred additional development and redevelopment, including revitalization and reinvestment in the downtown of each borough, infill housing development, and attraction of new businesses to corporate and industrial parks within a three-mile radius of the ramp.
A total of approximately 3.4 million square feet of development (office, hotels, and residential) representing more than $1 billion in private investment have been built on the 120 acres adjacent to the river in West Conshohocken and Conshohocken. The overall average vacancy rate for office space at the time construction first started topped 20%. Now Class A office vacancy rates in the Conshohockens are approximately 7%, and rents exceed $30 per square foot. Property, earned income, business and other municipal taxes have generated enough local revenue to allow the communities to develop sewer and water systems, build new municipal centers, and undertake many additional public infrastructure projects. Between 1980 and 2006, local tax revenues increased from $2 million to $10 million. The median price of a housing unit increased from approximately $35,000 to approximately $250,000. Comparatively, housing prices in Pennsylvania increased from $77,400 in 1980 to $155,000 in 2007.
The number of jobs in Montgomery County increased 41% between 1978 and 1997 compared to a 19% increase for the state as a whole. According to one of the major developers of offices in the study area, between 1986 and 2008, a minimum of 10,000 jobs have been created just on the 120 acres of riverfront property in West Conshohocken and Conshohocken that are served by the Interstate 476 ramps. Population decreased by .5% to 9,942 in the Conshohockens between 1980 and 2007, but this number does not reflect new residents in more than 600 housing units recently built and under construction along the riverfront.
The boroughs have lost single-family housing stock as developers have torn down existing single family units to replace them with duplexes or townhouses. Further, some residents feel that the new development has increased property and home values to the point where long time residents can no longer afford to live in the communities. Traffic congestion and the continued need for infrastructure improvements to support development are also of concern to residents and officials. However, for the most part, the communities believe the highway ramps saved the communities from financial disaster.
Developers and borough officials all agree that the highway ramps provided the key to unlocking development along the Schuylkill River in West Conshohocken and Conshohocken. At the same time, public investment, including the designation of the initial 25-acre redevelopment area as a State Enterprise Zone, and the influx of an estimated $80 million in federal funding were important for helping to jumpstart the development in the area.
In Conshohocken, new zoning regulations creating Specially Planned District I and II were adopted in the early 1990's to accommodate the type of mixed-use development. Previously, the land had been zoned primarily for industrial development. The borough has adopted additional zoning regulations in the early 2000's to expand these districts. The boroughs continue to invest in infrastructure to accommodate the ongoing development. West Conshohocken, which has no additional land available for development, is concerned that once construction-related permit fees are no longer being collected, they will not be able to finance additional infrastructure improvements.
Montgomery County Planning Commission
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
Borough of Conshohocken
Village of Conshohocken
Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority
Oliver Tyrone Pulver
Boles Smyth Associates, Inc
Case Study Developed by Sue Moses & Associates