Construction on University Avenue, seen here at Curie Boulevard, has reduced traffic from two lanes in each direction to one. It's been that way for over a year, and still has a ways to go. (Jordan Levy/Billy Penn)

Lane closures on University Avenue have been irking West Philly drivers and bikers for months, adding time to commutes or complicating their travels. 

A lane is closed in each direction between Convention Avenue and Grays Ferry. Nearby ramps to I-76 East and West makes the route a busy one. 

Unfortunately for commuters, the return of the full four-lane roadway is still about six months away, according to the Pa. Department of Transportation.

“It sucks,” said Julius, a driver getting ready last Friday to turn south onto the street, which runs from 38th and Market streets, winds around the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and behind the city’s Veterans Affairs complex before crossing the Schuylkill River and feeding into Grays Ferry Avenue. 

“Sometimes you’re stuck here for 20 minutes in the morning, 25 if it’s really bad,” Julius said. 

Passing bikers also expressed frustration with navigating the reduced streets so close to a busy intersection. 

The crunch is the result of utility construction work being carried out by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The work is slated to wrap next spring — by early April, per the latest PennDOT bulletin.

Workers on Friday morning around 9:30 could be found peering into a massive hole in the street. By the time they put a bow on the project, it’ll have been nearly two years since the stretch became a construction site. 

The project started in August 2022 with the removal of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s storm and sanitary sewer. 

Construction on University Avenue, seen here at Curie Boulevard, is in service of sewer work needed for a CHOP tower now being built. (Jordan Levy/Billy Penn)

Schedules had construction workers there during the height of the regular work week — Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., along with some weekends, according to PennDOT. That wrapped up last April. 

After a brief reprieve, workers were back on the block in July, getting started on the current phase of utility construction, the replacement of the storm and sanitary system on Curie Boulevard and University Avenue, “from Curie to south of the railroad bridge,” according to CHOP’s Project Management & Construction team. 

“This project was prompted by the need to relocate the existing sewer lines in East Service Drive to support CHOP’s New Patient Tower project,” a hospital spokesperson told Billy Penn. The 26-story, $1.9 billion tower will include roughly 480 beds and is slated to open in 2028. 

“As part of this we are adding some much-needed capacity into the sewer system.”
Many who use the road will be relieved when it’s all done, as there are plenty who agree with Julius, the driver, in his short summation of delays he thinks are “bad most of the time.”

Simply put, Julius said, “It’s not fun.”

Construction on University Avenue in West Philadelphia in October 2023. (Jordan Levy/Billy Penn)

Jordan Levy is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn, always aiming to help Philadelphians share their stories. Formerly, he has worked at Document Journal, n+1 Magazine, and The New Republic. He...